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Aging Action Initiative Happy birthday, AAI!

By Linda M. Jackson
Program director, AAI

We are five years old this year! Toto, we’re not a startup anymore!

The Aging Action Initiative was conceived in 2014, as the result of conversations between local electeds and civic leaders. It started with a conversation, and grew over a series of convenings and workgroups and events and creative initiatives.

This year, we convened for the seventh time. Over 100 people from across Marin and across sectors came together to network, learn, and hear the latest from Marin leaders and from the national American Society on Aging Conference. Our focus this year was the intersectionality of aging equity and other social issues.

I took the opportunity in the morning to share some highlights from the past year:

  • We held three Inform&Connect academies, including one in collaboration with the Marin Interfaith Council for faith leaders.
  • We held three Detect&Connect workshops, including one at Marin Humane attended by 29 board members, staff, and volunteers.
  • AAI received its first grant from the Mental Health Services Act. We can now scale up presentations of our homegrown Detect&Connect workshop across the county.
  • Age-friendly planning happened across Marin last year. All 12 jurisdictions are in some phase of planning, from beginning conversations in Larkspur to the seasoned team in Sausalito  deciding what’s next for its age-friendly plan.
  • We asked that the four year bike lane pilot on the Richmond-San Rafael bridge be shortened to six months so we can get a third lane westbound in the morning for our local workers.
  • We partnered with Marin Community Foundation and others to put on the All. Together. Now economic security summit in February where we learned about the income challenges that older women and people of color have in making ends meet.
  • We spoke up this year for new housing, including funding for accessory dwelling units, housing for homeless seniors in Larkspur, and assisted living in downtown San Rafael.
  • AAI, with the Commission on Aging, put on two JADU Expos. A JADU is a junior accessory dwelling unit – a unit carved out of space in an existing home, such as turning an extra bedroom and bath into a separate unit. A JADU provides needed income, a close-by neighbor, or a place for a caregiver.

On our fifth birthday, we celebrated the start of a fourth initiative: Act&Connect. That’s because we need to be bolder next year. We will not buy into any cultural prejudice against older people. We must instead honor the experience and expertise and wisdom that comes with years of life’s journey. Here are the issues that we’re watching in the next year:

  • Safety and health and security in times of a changing climate which includes sea level rise, heat waves and fire preparedness. See Dr. Lisa Santora’s article about being ready to act.
  • Including everyone in Census 2020, where every uncounted older adult equals $2,000 less each year for public services.
  • Respect and dignity for LGBTQ seniors in residential facilities, and the launch of the Long-Term Care Equality Index to evaluate care for LGBTQ seniors in care.
  • Immigration policies affecting our employees and clients who worry that their families will be ripped apart any day any time.
  • A state plan for older adults in California that will address the critical issue of long-term care and other hot topics.
  • Local age-friendly plans with policy and program innovations.
  • Marin’s AAA Plan.

In Act&Connect, AAI is joining an advocacy alliance with other leaders so we will be more effective in advocating for change. At the heart of this fight is equity. When a group comes together to work on something, are older people at the table? We must advocate for older representatives on committees and boards who can speak knowledgeably about our issues and solutions.

It matters that every person — regardless of birthplace, upbringing, schooling, work, or age — is healthy and happy with people who care. With Act&Connect, we know that we will make a difference … together.

Happy 5th birthday, AAI!