Aging Action Initiative Ageism in 2021 (February 2021) By Linda Jackson, AAI Program Director

Have you seen Leslie Stahl’s 60 minute interview with Nancy Pelosi yet? 

Leslie Stahl at 79 years old is among the first cohort of women reporters in the U.S., inspiring thousands of young women to enter the field of journalism. Yet, despite Stahl’s own experience with sexism and ageism, she asks Nancy Pelosi, our nation’s top woman politician, about the “A” word! 

This past COVID year, the AAI network has spoken up to raise awareness about the insidious damage caused by ageism. Early on, the County of Marin public health officials quickly revised its reporting of COVID deaths to recognize that people expect to live far beyond the original 60+ benchmark. As a result, we know that in Marin over 75 percent of deaths have been in people 75 and older

County health officials also took notice of the high percentage of Hispanics who not only made up the majority of COVID cases, but who were also hospitalized at twice the rate as other racial/ethnic groups. The decision to prioritize the testing and vaccinations of caregivers, many of whom are Hispanic, recognized the value of the Latinos in the caregiving sector.

AAI’s network moved to address early on the loneliness epidemic expected as a result the COVID shelter-in-place orders. Organizations such as Vivalon, Dominican University, West Marin Senior Services, the County’s Aging & Adult Services, Jewish Family & Children’s Services, Marin Villages, Age-Friendly task forces countywide, and local governments all reached out in a wide range of innovative ways to make sure that the older residents in their circles had the social connections they needed for their mental health. The rest of Marin finally and sadly experienced what it’s like to not have regular connections with other human beings. The reality is that people will continue to grow older and experience continued isolation, unless we reimagine the value of an intergenerational community of all ages.

Being age-friendly is possible for every organization. A few years ago, AAI prioritized age-friendly planning across Marin. As Sara Robinson outlines this month, the County of Marin has taken the lead in transforming County departments into age-friendly programming. For a look at what’s going on in the city or town where you work, check out AAI’s resource page.

Just as Nancy Pelosi looks at her daunting list of must-do’s, we are as well: elder homelessness, dementia in older people living alone, depression and other mental health fragilities, racial disparities in health, economic security in the face of ageism and unaffordable rents, to name a few challenges.

And one more thing, AAI is launching a speakers bureau this year to educate people about ageism, AAI, the Master Plan on Aging (finally released!) and how we can work together to ensure that everyone has a comfortable and content life as they grow older. If you’d like to be part of the speakers bureau, let us know at support@agingactioninitiative.org – we’d love to have you on board.

With imagination and hope in hand, here’s to 2021!