Election Day Approaches!

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From AAI Program Director Linda M. Jackson:

This is the month to get ready to vote! There are numberless reasons to do so, beginning with the need to have leaders who will protect the planet’s natural resources that give us life. We also know that last year’s tax cuts will mean budget cuts next year, very likely in fields that are critical in our work of supporting older adults.

What’s at stake is the long-term viability of social security and Medicare, access to health care and affordable prescription drugs, security of pensions, and help for caregivers. We need elected officials who are willing to ask questions, seek solutions, and work together to find the path forward.

Beyond determining budgets and policy, our government officials set the tone for public discourse. September’s events caused many of us to stop in our tracks. Many women, including myself, had the unwanted reminder of moments when we were alone, startled, and attacked. While older women are particularly bolstered by the voices of younger women in the #metoo movement, they may not have access to tools to help them process trauma. Think of Marin’s older women living alone, haunted by these resurrected memories. Often, resources for victims are geared toward younger women, and may use images or language that alienate older clients.

Luckily, you in your work are in a place to help older women understand that assault — whether it took place last month or 50 years ago — was not their fault. How can we help? By being present and listening. Telling a story is healing. If a person wants to talk with a professional, they can call the RAINN sexual assault hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673). The National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life also has resources for victims, professionals, and advocates.

The Aging Action Initiative speaks up to ensure that all the people we work with have the support needed for a healthy, safe, and engaging quality of life. I witnessed the power of showing up and speaking up in the realm of housing just this last month. After a roomful of speakers asked the San Rafael City Council to deny an appeal of their Planning Commission’s approval of assisted living, the councilmembers voted unanimously for the new housing. And after receiving a stack of letters and hearing from half a dozen speakers, the Ross Valley Sanitary District unanimously approved a fee reduction for the affordable senior rental housing Victory Village in Fairfax.

You have a voice. Mail in your ballot or go to the polls on November 6. Call your family and friends in other states and wish them a successful vote day. Vote as if the health of your next year depends on it.

Looking for information on the propositions and elections?

  • The California Alliance for Retired Americans recommends voting yes on Proposition 1 and Proposition  2 for affordable housing.
  • The League of Women Voters is a resource about the process of voting and the propositions and candidates. The Marin LWV recommends voting yes on Measure AA for local transportation funding.

Double check that you’re registered in Marin by visiting www.marincounty.org/depts/rv/voter-registration/register/am-i-registered or calling (415) 499-6456 before October 22.

~Linda

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Climate Change Inspires Collaborative Action

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From AAI Program Director Linda Jackson:

The largest fires ever. The blistering heat. The drought. The rain deluge. The floods.

My cousin writes from Sweden that this summer is the hottest in 200 years. That was not a typo. And the end of summer is still over six weeks away.

This past month, I experienced 100+ degree weather in Portland, Oregon, and drove through the dense smoke of northern California.

While all this is alarming, I am comforted knowing that people from all arenas are addressing the problem. The path of global warming is increasingly documented by scientists of every field. Researchers are exploring carbon sequestration. Most national governments are moving toward the carbon goals set by the Paris Accord. Car companies are developing more efficient vehicles and innovators are creating new batteries. The state of California, the fifth largest economy of the world, is a leader in setting emissions standards. And major world religions, inspired by leaders like Pope Francis, are embracing the imperative to reduce carbon emissions as quickly as possible.

The motto “Think globally, act locally” has never been more meaningful than today. Here in Marin, we have at least a dozen organizations tackling sustainability. We have to save the planet as it is the only ship we have.

In many ways, climate change activism is a model for our work in the Aging Action Initiative. We are building bridges, tunnels and walkways between the silos we work in – between public agencies, nonprofits, and the health sector. We have goals: to share our knowledge and expertise and findings, to advocate for policy changes, to create innovative approaches that change our work for the better.

One of those innovations is an Inform & Connect workshop happening this month. The workshop is the inspiration of the Marin Interfaith Council. It is the first of an Inform & Connect workshop tailored to specific interests, in this case, of Marin faith leaders wanting to answer the call for help from members of their congregations.

Another innovation is highlighted this month’s newsletter: the collaboration behind the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative. Making our homes more energy efficient is vital to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. GGHI is a collaborative effort that intersects safety and energy retrofits to adapt homes for older adults and to make them more energy efficient. The GHHI network shows how much can be achieved when people come together to do something new in a different way.

These summer months are a chance to slow down, look around and think. As the climate crisis shows us, we must come together to create new and more effective solutions to the challenges we see around us. Our work is essential to helping older people sustain their well-being.

We cannot give up. Our future depends on us doing this work.

~ Linda

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Finding Happiness in Community

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From AAI Program Director Linda Jackson:

For many of us, summer is the season of visiting new and favorite places, and seeing old friends and distant family. It’s also the time we head out to open spaces, enjoying the fresh air and green and gold vistas. I’m accompanied by my summer reading, all about happiness.

My research into ‘happiness’ has several roots. As one of the indicators influencing mental health, isolation affects the ability of older people to age successfully in their community. As we get older, many of us will lose someone closest to us: our spouse or partner, friends and neighbors, work colleagues, and family members. People who live in suburban homes find that when they stop driving, it is much more challenging to do necessary outings for food and time with family and friends. Being “in community,” however we individually define that, is essential for our mental health and our happiness.

A second factor is the understanding that community is a privilege not all of us are fortunate enough to have. The news about families arriving to ask for asylum only to be locked up in separate facilities moves one to despair, the opposite of happiness. In Marin, we stand concerned about our immigrant neighbors. Some of Marin’s immigrants are the clients of AAI partners. They are grandparents, worried about their own citizenship and the precarious situations of their family members. Many AAI partners employ immigrants for administrative and professional support in healthcare and care-giving. One of our partners recently contracted with an immigration attorney to provide consultations for their employees. What a benefit to help their workers have information needed for some peace of mind.

The last source of this deep summer dive into ‘happiness’ is from my own roots: my mother’s parents were from Sweden. I have long been intrigued by the comfortable and happy lives of my cousins and others living in northern Europe. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the greatest life satisfaction is in Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, and Finland. Other northern European countries are close behind. (The U.S. ranks #15.)

Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute (yes, there is such a place!), identifies six components to happiness: togetherness, money, health, freedom, trust, and kindness. Our work in AAI aligns well with these components. We value collaboration, compassion, and respect. We advocate for aging-in-community and economic security. We innovate to improve communication across sectors and address inequities.

This month we highlight a facet of life in northern Europe that we enjoy here in Marin, with our abundant open space. As Dr. Lisa Santora explains this month, “a walk outside” is therapy. Even better is a walk in the woods. To be in nature, in natural habitat, breathing fresh air and experiencing a different setting — together this creates well-being, and yes, happiness.

Check out our greatly-expanded Resource webpage this month. You’ll find research done in Marin and beyond about older adults, and about organizations working with diverse populations. For example, and in honor of being outside, see what the County is planning for its parks in its “Inclusive Action Plan”. Bookmark this site, and use it to find pertinent facts for your grant applications and announcements.

I recently was on a unique walk, on a hunt for a grave marker in the enormous and lovely Graceland Cemetery in Chicago. It was just me and three maps (two from the hand-drawn era), wandering the lanes and gravestones, searching in the heat and shade, hiking over the rises and vales of the landscape, for an elusive stone. With what must have been a dozen restarts, and a pursuit that involved crawling under a bush the size of an elephant and brushing off the pine needles to uncover a granite marker in perfect condition after 83 years, I reached a serendipitous ending. There was my Swedish grandfather’s marker.

John Young

I sat there in the silent shade under the branches for a while, sitting with the memories of stories about this man who died ten years before I was born. With some fruit and water and rest, I was ready for the hike back to the entryway, ready to rejoin the vibrancy of urban Chicago. And, yes, I was happy!

Wishing you the same, and hope to see you on the trails ~

 

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Downsizing to where?

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From Program Director Linda Jackson: 

We decided to downsize this year. Our family home, long an empty nest since our youngest ones flew away, is simply too large for two people. There were rooms we didn’t go into, parts of the yard that we never saw, and decades of stuff that seems to reproduce when we weren’t watching. Most of all, we had a home that deserved to be full with a new, happy family.

The challenge was: Where would we move to in Marin? We wanted a smaller place in a neighborhood where we can walk about, close to restaurants, shops, and the movies. After months of searching, we found what may be be very last new unit in Marin. With little new housing being proposed in Marin, others will find it even more challenging to downsize to a smaller place.

No doubt about it, the process of downsizing is daunting.

It took months of sorting, a moving crew of millennials, and many boxes to give away and donate the things we don’t need anymore. It’s been a sweet good-bye journey, leaving the house we called home the past 28 years. It’s also been great fun to explore our new neighborhood near downtown San Rafael.

I can’t help but wonder how much harder it would be to do this if we were in our 70s or 80s? What options are there for older people in Marin as their lifestyles change? Will there be enough resources for people who want to grow older in their home and community? For those facing dementia or declining health, will they have what they need for safety and companionship?

The question for Marin is: what percentage of residents are going to choose to stay in San Rafael as they grew older? According to a national survey by AARP in 2012, about 90% of older adults intend to stay in their own homes for the next 5 to 10 years.

Have you heard of NORCs, which are a “naturally-occurring retirement community”? The parameters vary in the field, but I like this simple one: if 50 percent of a community’s residents are over 50, then the town is considered a “NORC.” Marin County hasn’t reached NORC status yet, although in 2010 the median age of Marin residents was 44.5, and there were 5,000 more people aged 75 and older than those five and under. There are some Marin places close to having a majority of residents over 50. In Belvedere, 41 percent of its residents were over 50 in 2010. A few communities in Marin have already reached NORCdom, such as the unincorporated community of Dillon Beach, where 62 percent of residents in 2010 were over 50! (You can look up fun census facts at factfinder.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/community_facts.xhtml#)

People working with older adults are aware of the issues facing people as they grow older. Will there be housing for others who want to downsize? Will there be enough housing for the people who work in Marin – those who are caregivers, healthcare managers, and homecare experts? What about low-income people who need affordable housing, or people who need extra care, like assisted living or memory care? The recent report Older Adult Housing in Marin: Planning for 2030 estimated that 7,000 of today’s older residents need affordable housing, and that there is a shortfall of hundreds of assisted living and memory care units to meet the 2030 demand.

One small part of the housing solution in Marin is to support, fund, and streamline the process to create more accessory dwelling units. The new units can be for a caregiver, a family member, the homeowner (who can then rent out the main house), or a close-by neighbor, and can provide extra income for the homeowner. In San Rafael, the number of new accessory dwelling units doubled last year, and the city is on track to double that again. We need to do this across Marin!

This month, A.A.I. is working with our partners to ask local Councils and the Board of Supervisors to budget and prioritize funding, support, and streamlining for accessory dwelling units in 2018-19. Join us by talking this month with your elected leaders and challenging them to support this housing option for older people in Marin.

Working together, we can make a difference, starting with a place to call home.

Now, off to unpack some more boxes!

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6th Convening Recap!

MCF 6th Convening

Shirin Vakharia of Marin Community Foundation presents at AAI’s 6th Convening.

From Program Director Linda Jackson:

The highlight of last month was the Aging Action Initiative’s 6th Convening.

We had a full room, dozens of new people, and beaucoup de enthusiasm for the sessions.

Our six Convenings have attracted nearly 500 people. They represent over 130 agencies, nonprofits, and organizations in Marin; 24 agencies have sent three or more people to at least one convening. Our reach is growing because people understand the value of what AAI brings to the work of an age-friendly Marin. Here are some “best parts” comments from this year’s evaluation forms:

  • I was inspired by the four individuals who opened the day. An entertaining and introspective start to the event.
  • So much concern & energy re. making Marin a healthy, secure, safe place to live.
  • Meeting new people; learning about what’s happening in community for seniors and how I can get involved more.
  • Opportunity to network; blend of public, community, and health perspectives.
  • Lens on Aging Equity — questions and discussions at our tables.
  • Reframing aging to be more effective in talking about issues facing older adults.

AAI educates! The morning began with ‘listening in’ to four Marin residents reflect on aging. Read Terri Dowling’s comments on growing older here.

Most of the day was dedicated to learning, thinking, and talking about equity. Laura Eberly of YWCA SF & Marin led two sessions about our own equity-related experiences and perceptions, and about the structure and outlook of our own organizations. You can learn more about the work and offerings of the YWCA at www.ywcasf-marin.org. This history lesson through the eyes of an African American is most insightful: www.youtube.com/watch?v=dw_mRaIHb-M

Shirin Vakharia of Marin Community Foundation moderated a session titled “Bringing Home More than a Tee-Shirt” about the just-concluded national American Society on Aging conference. Not all of us were able to attend the conference in San Francisco, so we brought it back with a panel discussion of highlights and table talks about what people learned. What did we talk about?

  • Livable Communities: housing, transportation, open space
  • Integrated health care models, social determinants of health, and LTSS + CBOs
  • Stigma-resistance and denial and the need to reframe public thinking for acceptance of supports and services for older people
  • “Solo aging” — people without kids who are now without family or spouse support
  • Isolation and health impacts
  • Caregivers: Housing and finding caregivers, workforce/immigration concerns, services in rural communities
  • Hospice/palliative care in home

In addition to equity and the ASA conference, we also talked about ageism and reframing, or revising the way we talk about older people, and the benefits and challenges of growing older.

AAI advocates! The last session of the Convening was all about the four issues we are focusing on this year: housing, aging-in-community, economic security, and transportation. Here are some of the inspirational protest signs made in the afternoon:

  • Work Here. Live Here. Stay Here.
  • End Social Isolation – Visit a Neighbor
  • Reframe our Game to Everyone’s Gain!
  • Livable wages for caregivers now!!!
  • Keep Older People Mobile

AAI promotes service collaboration! The whole day was about this — 74% of attendees reported making at least five new connections and a third of attendees met more than 10 new people.

Thanks to all who came and shared and connected! This is one of the reasons AAI came into being — to make the most of our connections so we can do the most for older people in Marin.

See you around Marin~

P.S. Miss the Convening? Email support@agingactioninitiative.org with your name and organization to request access to panel summaries and presentations.

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