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Aging Action Initiative  AAI in 2021

I’m writing this as the wind is ripping through Marin, following a healthy delivery of rainwater to our trees and rivers and Bay.

In wrapping up another COVID year, we human beings are in the grips of the natural world, striving to hold on to what makes us whole.

A year ago, I attended a Jewish Family & Children’s Services class about ‘The Sacred Role of Grandparenting in the Time of COVID-19.’ Speaker Jane Isay spoke of the four things that grandparents offer the young people in their lives:  empathy, perspective, history, agency. These words are powerful evocations of what older people offer the world immersed in a climate collapse, familial dislocation, and communications discordance.

With empathy, in 2021 AAI’s Detect&Connect program reached over 1,000 people in the three year grant program. This unique homegrown and free workshop teaches people how to communicate and connect with someone with dementia or a mental health issue. The County of Marin agreed to fund the program one more year – so if you would like a refresher, or a chance to bring this anew to your board members, your staff and volunteers, or your larger community, fill out this form & we’ll help you get started: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScoEyeC8ZJoQHrl0caADAmE2OXsmuru9z-YkUgaDVR1FpXS_A/viewform

With perspective, we fought ageism. This prejudice against ourselves is now an international phenomenon. Across the world, thanks to the wonderful drugs and treatments that extend years of life, people are living 30 – 40+ years beyond the 60 years lived by older people 100 years ago. Combined with the pervasive fear of death embedded in our culture, elderly people can be isolated, lonely and forgotten. We don’t wish ennui for anyone, be it a teenager or young adult struggling through COVID, or people of color raising their voices with heart and an imperative, or those with a disability wanting to be seen. Ageism is the one prejudice that everyone will experience in the end. We spoke up in 2021 to say, over and over, that prejudice against anyone because they look different is unequivocably wrong. Life does not have to be so hard.

With history, that third power of older adults, AAI has built a story about a network of awareness and help for older people in need. AAI’s Inform&Connect sessions, held on Mondays at 2, are regular insights into the variety of work that member organizations and agencies do across Marin. The 2021 Annual Convening was a remarkable online gathering, with keynote speakers Dr. Louise Aronson and Professor Fernando Torres-Gil sharing their stories about COVID, ageism, ableism and xenophobia. You can catch them, or any of the other sessions here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYpIg-2cIPw&list=PLZsKyzphJcxnoXfiDAnj5Cvq272ROVMBU Our story is ongoing as AAI embarks on a year ahead of transition to the new Marin Aging & Disability Institute. It’s through our shared history that we can understand why things are the way they are, both rewarding and challenging. Which brings us to …

Agency, the fourth strength of older adults. In Spring 2021, working with the Marin Commission on Aging and the Age-Friendly Marin network, AAI’s Advocacy Alliance talked with elected leaders and key staff directors and implementors to say “remember your older constituents.” We asked for a greater awareness of the challenges that dementia bring families. We asked for support for the California Master Plan on Aging https://mpa.aging.ca.gov/. We asked for more Detect&Connect funding. And we asked the County to investigate how it can be better prepared to meet the needs of older adults in the future. To that end, the County agreed to fund a consultant to investigate how best to provide intra-departmental integrated services for older people in need in Marin. With agency, we make a difference.

It’s been a long year in a long journey. The work never let up in 2021, and we never let go. Yet, after the long dry months of 2020 and 2021, we are having a bit of life-sustaining rain. Let’s nestle in to enjoy the winter storms promised this season. Let’s bid adieu to the year.

And, as you do that, hold on to what makes you whole: make a phone call to someone who wants to hear from you and let them know you haven’t forgotten.

Til next year, Linda