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By Sara Robinson, Marin County Aging & Adult Services Age-Forward CoordinatorAging Action Initiative An Age-Friendly Approach to County and Community Work (February 2021)

Marin County is involved in many area-wide efforts to create a more age friendly community. This is necessary as 30 percent of Marin residents will be 60 older by 2030 based on projections. In an age-friendly county, older adults are supported to live active, socially engaged, independent lives, and the improvements made in eliminating barriers and improving social, physical and economic environments influence the health and well-being of all residents, young and old.

In 2018, Supervisor Dennis Rodoni and recently retired Supervisor Kate Sears led the efforts to initiate the County’s application for membership in the WHO and AARP Age-Friendly Network. The County initiative was the culmination of several initiatives and policies that form a foundation of the commitment to work on behalf of the aging population. The Aging Action Initiative, financially supported by the County of Marin, is central to this foundation.  The age-friendly movement started at the local level first with 10 of the eleven municipalities of Marin receiving the official Age-Friendly designation.

The Board-approved Age Forward Framework for an Age-Friendly Marin identifies six focus areas derived from the community assessment that included over 2000 voices. The plan identifies equity opportunities in each focus area and emphasizes enhancing programs and services in the unincorporated areas.

As the Age Forward Coordinator, I am working with the County departments, the Board of Supervisors Age-Forward subcommittee, the Commission on Aging, and the local community leaders to implement the framework action steps over three years. Our focus is aligning with and improving upon what is already happening by integrating age-friendly practices, policies, and procedures into the work we are already doing while addressing ageism and cultural and racial inequities.

As our stereotypes of aging are often internalized at a young age, intergenerational programming is considered an important aspect of an age-friendly community.

  • Marin libraries include intergenerational programming, diversity and inclusion as key components of their strategy, partnerships, and policy. Our libraries offer reading buddies programs that have moved online during the pandemic.
  • The library bookmobiles include senior specific stops to bring books to older adults and their grandkids.

Healthy aging isn’t just about living longer but living better. The County departments are addressing the many determinants of health.

  • The Parks department grant program provides the Canal Alliance clients no fee transit to the parks.
  • Through an Aging and Adult Services assisted transportation grant, a Vivalon shuttle is taking West Marin residents from Point Reyes to medical appointments in Central Marin.
  • Marin Social Services developed a robust medical telehealth program focused on person-centered plans using nurse, social worker, and mental health interns from multiple universities. Pre-pandemic the interns were visiting clients and assessing their surroundings for home safety and maintenance needs.
  • Help at Hand is a Marin Behavioral Health program using volunteers to test technology designed to improve wellness for older adults. Using English- and Spanish-speaking volunteers 60+ with or without technology experience, nurse interns will assist virtually and in-person in showing how devices can be use for improving sleep and developing healthier living strategies.

These are examples of how collaboration, innovation and cultural considerations are the essence of the work in building an Age-Friendly County that supports the health, wellness and a better life for all residents. I look forward to collaborating with you in the future!