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August 19, 2015 | Supervisor Sears shares her thoughts about aging in Marin.

Aging in Marin: Meeting Our Growing Needs by Initiating Multi-Year,
Public-Private Partnerships to Deliver a Better Future for Older Adults

Starting in January of 2015, I began serving as the Board of Supervisor’s liaison for issues of aging throughout the County. Mid-way into this year, I’m delighted to report that the County of Marin is hard at work on several fronts coordinating initiatives in four high-priority issue areas affecting older adults: care coordination; mental health; dementia and cognitive impairment; and food and nutrition.

Profile of Aging in Marin: A Rapidly Expanding Older Population and Many Facing Economic Challenges

Currently, Marin is the oldest county in the Bay Area and our older population is growing more than 1.5 times as fast as the rest of the state. Today, 27% of Marin’s residents are over 60 years old and one out of every four of these individuals is over the age of 75. Nearly 13% of Marin’s residents are older adults of color.

By 2030, more than 33% of our residents will be over 60 and about 14% will be over 75. Marin is not the only area with an aging demographic. Soon, for the first time in history, there will be more people on this planet over the age of 65 than under the age of 5.

Many of our older neighbors are struggling to get by. Approximately 4,600 older adults over 60 in Marin fall below 125% of the Federal Poverty Level. A sizable number (21%) of adults over 65 have incomes over the Federal Poverty Level but below the California Elder Economic Security Standard Index (Elder Index), which measures how much income a retired adult over 65 needs to adequately meet his/her basic needs. More than half of all elder renters living alone in Marin are trying to survive on incomes below the Elder Index. Four out of 10 elders living alone who own their home but are still paying off a mortgage are unable to meet their basic needs. In high-cost Marin, almost one quarter of elders who own their home outright cannot make ends meet.

Genesis of Marin County’s Aging Action Initiative

Given these population dynamics and emerging income challenges, in 2013, my colleagues and I on the Board of Supervisors asked how we were addressing this changing landscape and the current and future needs of Marin’s older adults. Seeing the need for more action, the Board set aside start-up implementation funds to catalyze the Aging Action Initiative.

After six months of collaborative and intensive planning, county staff, service providers, community leaders and members of the Marin Commission on Aging, are off and running building momentum for enhanced and expanded collective impact. A summary of the Aging Action Initiative’s nine Year One Action Items is here. It’s a strong first step in a continuing journey.

Age Friendly Initiatives Blossoming In Marin: Creating More Fully Engaging Environments for All

With the strong desire of older adults to continue living at home in their own communities, individuals and service providers have come together throughout Marin to make their communities age-friendly. An “age friendly” community is one where policies and services, as well as the physical and social environments, are designed to support and enable older people to live in a safe environment, enjoy optimal health and continue to participate fully in their communities.

A number of Marin County jurisdictions are in the process of pursuing designation as a World Health Organization (WHO) Age Friendly community. Pursuit of this designation includes an initial application, a letter of commitment from the Mayor and municipal administration, completion of a needs assessment and a three-year city-wide action plan based on the findings of the needs assessment. The City of Sausalito jumped out of the starting blocks, gaining the Age Friendly designation in April of 2014. Fairfax and Corte Madera quickly followed suit and interest is spreading to other communities.

Call a Ride for Sausalito Seniors (CARSS), a partnership between Age Friendly Sausalito and Sausalito Village, launched in May 2015 with a $15,000 grant from Marin Transit. This on-demand service provides rides to Sausalito seniors 60 years and older within Sausalito, the floating homes community and Gateway Shopping Center. More information about this innovative program is available at

Age Friendly Sausalito also is addressing the shortage of affordable housing by promoting Home Sharing, and working with the city’s Building and Planning Department to address issues of accessibility. These are important efforts which we are looking to as potential models for many of our communities.