By Linda Jackson
AAI Program Director
“Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings.”
I am reminded of these words spoken by Ursula LeGuin when she received, at 84, the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the 2014 National Book Awards.
AAI is grounded in the belief that we can find the words and paths needed to change the beliefs, systems, and power that confound and constrict the lives of the people we work with every day. Perpetual competition for funding, embedded barriers to people who need help the most, and professional silos are not going to bring about needed meaningful changes to the way we do things. We are working collectively to make changes.
2019 was a growth year for collaborations in Marin.
AAI’s newsletter reached 1,000 subscribers this year. With your news, alerts, and updates, AAI puts together what has become Marin’s key source of what’s happening each month. Each month AAI highlights a different collaborator in the County. This month we welcome new Marin Health & Human Services Director Benita McLarin’s to the AAI network. Read her introduction here.
AAI and the Commission on Aging kicked off a new key initiative: the Advocacy Alliance. The four issues we focus on — economic security, health, housing, and transportation — are critical elements for safe and happy living ’til the end. As its kickoff event, the Alliance will hold, in partnership with the League of Women Voters, a candidates forum the afternoon of Wednesday, February 5.
AAI, with the Commission on Aging and Age-Friendly Marin, hosted a book talk with Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks and the blog Is This Ageist? Ashton’s writings have helped me as I get older to better discern aging equity. At the Convening this year, a panel of Marin leaders explored the intersectionality of ageism with other inequities. We cannot forget that we are in this work together, as Applewhite describes eloquently in a recent post about the #OKBoomer meme:
The old are not the enemy and age is not the issue. As historian Holly Scott pointed out in the Washington Post, the problem with #OKBoomer is that “generational divides distract from deeper questions of power.” And privilege. The issue is inequality, which does not discriminate by age. What stands between us and a more equitable world are the structures and systems that benefit from oppression — racism, sexism, ageism, and all the rest — because prejudice pits us against each other in order to maintain the status quo. Like auto workers in the U.S. competing against auto workers in Mexico instead of organizing for better wages, pitting young against old is a time-honored tactic used to divide people who might otherwise unite to change things.
Speaking of the Convening: this year we added breakout sessions with Inform&Connect conversations, age-friendly updates, and advocacy training.
Detect&Connect took off this year, thanks to a County MHSA Innovation Project grant. Ellen Baxter joined AAI this year as the Detect&Connect program coordinator, taking this mental health and dementia workshop from a start-up to a fully launched program. This year, 139 people attended a Detect&Connect workshop. At least that many are scheduled to go to a workshop in the first two months of 2020! If your organization hasn’t yet signed up to host a free workshop for your staff and volunteers, send Ellen a note at email@example.com.
AAI applauds the work of the County of Marin to create its first Age-Friendly Plan. Under the leadership of Marin’s Aging & Adult Services, leaders from throughout Marin met with County department representatives to craft a plan that will improve the way that the County works with the 70,000+ older adults in Marin. The Age-Friendly plan will be presented to the Marin County Board of Supervisors this winter. Look for an invitation to attend the hearing soon!
AAI partnered with the Commission on Aging, Leadership Novato, and local architects, builders, and others in the housing sector to hold three JADU expos to promote the creation of junior accessory dwelling units. We are thrilled to know that more affordable housing is coming online at Victory Village in Fairfax, Whistlestop in San Rafael, and eventually at the Coast Guard site in Pt. Reyes. And we spoke up at local jurisdictions about the challenging older renters face in Marin.
One of AAI’s steering committee members recently called out the “mutuality of respect throughout the network.” Another local leader said, “We leave our cards at the door.” This change from working just in the one professional silo we know to reaching out to create something new has resulted in a proliferation of collaborations across Marin: Whistlestop and Marin Center for Independent Living, Marin Community Foundation’s All.Together.Now Economic Security Summit, Marin Transit’s Mobility Consortium, Healthy Marin Partnership, In-Home Supportive Services and the Multicultural Center of Marin, Food Policy Council, Resident Services Coordinator Network and Marin VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster), and many more.
AAI is generating waves and making changes. We are on the way to making sure that we are ready to help all older adults in Marin — especially those with the fewest resources and the worst challenges — live in safety, comfort, and community until the end.
Join me in raising a glass to toast ‘resist and change’ in 2020 ~