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Aging Action Initiative Standing on Common Ground

By Linda M. Jackson, Aging Action Initiative Program Director

Standing on Common Ground

After the brutal and murderous World War II, leaders came together to adopt, among other important actions intended to prevent massacre of fellow humans, the 1949 Geneva Convention, which included this statement about the protection of what were identified as the most vulnerable people:

Art. 14 In time of peace, the High Contracting Parties and, after the outbreak of hostilities, the Parties therto, may establish in their own territory and, if the need arises, in occupied areas, hospital and safety zones and localities so organized as to protext from the  effects of war, wounded, sick and aged persons, children under fifteen, expectant mothers and mothers of children under seven.

Art. 3… 1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities…. Shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth, or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

A monumental agreement, the Geneva Convention set the stage for different cultures around the world to begin to redress their unique oppressions based on those distinctions. In the US and California, we have seen progress on this journey as public services were created to meet the needs of the wounded, sick, older, children and mothers (ie, protective services, Affordable Care Act). These steps forward opened the way for more to be included in the past decades: people with disabilities, immigrants and people with mental health conditions.

As “she”, I have had my share of unwanted, unexpected and undeserved moments of verbal and physical assaults. Now I’m 66 and experiencing unwanted, unexpected and undeserved moments of being ignored, forgotten or intentionally discounted. These ‘lived experiences’ are far more than just one-offs. They are the result of embedded policies, programs and practices of our culture and government that allow the abuse of females and the neglect of older people and other institutional adverse impacts on those who, as the Geneva Convention identified, should be protected and supported.

We are currently in the midst of an immense effort to change our institutions in profound ways. We do not want to simply end racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, ableism and ageism. We want to create policies, programs and practices that will sustainably support each and all in our individual humanity through our life journeys.

During a COVID webinar offered by the Jewish Family and Children’s Services, four strengths of older adults were highlighted: empathy, perspective, history, and agency. These unique perspectives are developed after a long life and passed on to younger people. They offer us all faith that there are better ways for us to live together.

This is what AAI is working to change. We are doing this in partnership with groups across Marin who share our vision for an age-friendly Marin, especially for those in need. We asked the Marin County Board of Supervisors this year for older adults to be seen, counted and included. We met with each Supervisor, and each one shared their understanding about the various experiences older adults face as they grow older in Marin.

We live in a world of complexity and limited resources. Decisions need to be nuanced to minimize the inevitable unexpected outcomes. In a time of one-time funds, the County is maximizing its opportunity for change.

AAI applauds the Board’s decision to explore how the County can best meet the needs of an aging county, to make sure that the homeless programs see the racial, age, gender and disability demographics of people housed, and to support a countywide forum about the Master Plan on Aging. Working together for the good of all!

Til next time ~ Linda

PS – Put it on your calendar:  the 2021 AAI Convening will be Thursday, September 30, 9- 4 pm, at Embassy Suites.