By Linda Jackson, Aging Action Initiative Program Director
Two is my favorite number, but it definitely let me down this year. 2020 was going to be the BEST year ever, complete with a May trip to a wedding in Istanbul and Ephesus, via London and involving trains and visits with grandchildren. I went for a walk recently with the mother-of-the-bride-to-be-still and was reminded once again of how much 2020 was NOT.
This year will be a most memorable year for reasons we couldn’t have imagined on January 1, 2020. Little ones will remember the time when school stopped being in school, and mom and dad were home all day, and they couldn’t see their grandparents anymore. The young adults will remember the fire set in their souls with the murder of George Floyd and the killing of Brianna Taylor and marching in protest of the racist DNA of our country, complete with the COVID-19 masks and national political anxiety at the end of the year. Older people will remember the months of sheltering-in-place, isolating from other human beings, atrophy of body and mind and spirit, failing to thrive just like babies who fail to thrive if deprived of human touch. How loud are the lamentations from 2020.
This year, AAI flipped focus to sustaining a 100 percent online network.
In a March AAI survey about organizational needs during quarantine, members said they needed information. We switched from planning our fall Inform&Connect workshops to putting on Monday 2 pm Zoom sessions. Since April, AAI presented 24 information sessions on 30 topics, with 66 leaders from public agencies, community-based organizations, and healthcare providers. Each session highlights Marin experts talking about resources for older people in need and about issues facing member agencies and organizations. We’ve presented more information to more people than ever this year.
Don’t miss our next session on Monday, December 7, 2 pm session with Dr. Jei Africa and Jane Ireland from Marin Health & Human Services about ways for us to support each other, our clients, and our families and friends over the holiday and into 2021.
Detect&Connect flipped too! After a wave of cancelled workshops in March and April, Ellen and AAI’s team of outstanding facilitators pivoted to online interactive workshops. We have reached nearly 700 people so far, partnering with 24 agencies and organizations for 29 workshops. Participants rave about how this program helps them communicate with clients and members of the public who may seem confused or disoriented.
The annual AAI convening became an online event in September. We offered an exceptional multi-day, multi-session event for 100+ people. Marin leaders in the aging equity sector weighed in with data and advocacy, delved into the soon-to-be-released Master Plan on Aging, and led discussions about health equity, disaster preparedness, advocacy, and mental health.
The County of Marin saw four major accomplishments for older people in 2020 with the adoption of the County’s aging plan for 2020-24 and the completion of Age Forward, the (much-anticipated) Marin County age-friendly plan. On the mental health side, the County adopted the Marin County Suicide Prevention Strategic Plan and the Mental Health Services Act Three Year Plan.
On the age-friendly front: AAI gives a big thanks of appreciation to the Board of Supervisors for its funding of staff to implement its Age-Friendly Plan and the creation of a Board subcommittee to track progress on realizing the promises of Move Forward. We can already see County departments starting to look at senior issues through the lens of aging equity.
I also want to give a shout out to Dominican University, which just received recognition as an age-friendly university!
Another 2020 success, despite the challenges of no face-to-face meetings since March, is the Advocacy Alliance. AAI, together with the Commission on Aging, Vivalon, Age-Friendly Marin, Jewish Family and Children’s Services, and the Marin Center for Independent Living, meets monthly to interview decision-makers. We also hosted a series of candidates forums this year in collaboration with the League of Women Voters. We raised awareness of the realities facing older people as they age in Marin, not just in the forums but in the videos viewed by hundreds of voters.
Finally, on the home front, the AAI Steering Committee completed an in-depth survey (thanks to the Marin Community Foundation) of members to find out how to make our network most effective. As a result, three new organizations were added to the Committee this year, as we expand our collaborative to include the library network, the education sector and Marin City representation: the Marin County Free Library (Chantel Walker), Dominican University (Dr. Ruth Ramsey), and Marin City Community Services District (Juanita Edwards).
We have much to be grateful for at the end of 2020. We will have a new president, the California Master Plan on Aging (finally), COVID-19 vaccines, an end to the debilitating sheltering and quarantines in sight, and a reopening of our society. I wish you safe, healthy and happy days as we wrap up 2020 and make our way online, and in due course in person, through 2021.
Take care ~