Highlights of Local Master Plan for Aging Conference

On Monday’s show, we air highlights of the Our Community: An Aging & Disability Conference, which FREED hosted jointly with the Agency on Aging Area 4 on July 8, 2021. At this year’s conference, we focused on local implementation of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s Master Plan for Aging, which the administration released on January 6, 2021. We heard from local elected officials, representatives from the California Departments of Rehabilitation and Aging, and a representative from the California AARP. We also had breakout sessions by county for community members and leaders to start to plan local Master Plan for Aging implementation efforts.

On this show, we air an excerpt of a presentation on the Master Plan for Aging given by Amanda Lawrence of the California Department of Aging. We also hear from Grass Valley Vice Mayor Jan Arbuckle and from Ana Acton, longtime Executive Director of FREED and Disability Rap host, who is now the Deputy Director of the Independent Living and Community Access Division at the California Department of Rehabilitation. The entire conference was recorded, and those recordings, as well as the transcripts and slideshow presentations, are available here.


CARL SIGMOND, HOST: From KVMR Nevada City and in partnership with FREED, welcome to Disability Rap. I’m Carl Sigmond, and I’m here with Carly Pacheco, who is our new Executive Director here at FREED. Carly, welcome to Disability Rap. It’s great to have you co-hosting the show!

CARLY PACHECO, HOST: Thanks so much, Carl. It’s great to be here for this exciting episode.

SIGMOND: Well, today we bring you highlights of a virtual conference on aging and disability FREED hosted jointly with our local Agency on Aging Area 4 on July 8. Each year, we host the Our Community: An Aging & Disability Conference, and at this year’s conference, we focused on local implementation of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s Master Plan for Aging, which the administration released on January 6, 2021.

PACHECO: The Master Plan for Aging, or MPA, was the culmination of over a year of community listening sessions and input by aging and disability advocates from across the state. Now is the time for local communities to take the 5 Bold Goals set forth in the MPA and implement them for ourselves. Our Conference was intended to jumpstart this local implementation effort in Nevada, Placer, Yuba, and Sutter Counties.

SIGMOND: At our conference on July 8, we heard from local elected officials, representatives from the California Departments of Rehabilitation and Aging, and a representative from the California AARP. We also had breakout sessions by county for community members and leaders to start to plan local implementation efforts. We are going to play some highlights from the conference for you today. The entire conference was recorded, and those recordings, as well as the transcripts and slideshow presentations, are available at FREED.org.

PACHECO: We’re going to begin with Amanda Lawrence, Project Director of the Master Plan for Aging at the California Department of Aging, talking about how the Master Plan for Aging came about, and then going through the Five Bold Goals of the MPA.

AMANDA LAWRENCE: So a quick introduction into why the Governor determined that we needed a Master Plan for Aging, because as I know, local advocates and state advocates have been calling for this plan for years and years. And so we could no longer ignore that aging is changing and it’s changing California. And it impacts all of us. So – you know – back in 2019, California had the longest or second longest life expectancy in the country. Unfortunately, due to Coved-19 we are going to see a dip in that life expectancy, and unfortunately it has disproportionately impacted particularly Black and Latino communities. That’s yet another reminder that we have to do better in ensuring that California has equitable access to health care, quality health care, housing, economic security, safety and information.

You’ll see throughout the Master Plan that equity is a core component of what we’ve done here. We’ve woven it through the plan, but we’ve also called it out in a specific goal – that third goal of the five goals. So if aging is changing, we know that we have to change how we think about aging, and the Master Plan is meant to be transformative. It’s not meant to be a patchwork of solutions and approaches. It’s really a call for all sectors of society to recognize that we need to do better and that our goal is not just to add years to life, but also life into those years. We want everyone to be able to thrive into and enjoy their golden years in our golden state.

So by 2030, we know that older adults – I’m sorry – by 2030, there will be more Californians aged 60 or over than those aged 0 to 18, and then by 2060, that 60-plus crowd will comprise nearly one-third of the population, at almost 14 million residents. So our existing society was built on very outdated demographic breakdowns and assumptions and stereotypes about later life. And there’s an obvious need to rethink and redesign our systems.

As I said, equity is at the core of the Master Plan for Aging. We really want to fight ableism, sexism and ageism at that systemic level, through these very intentional solutions. We also created an equity work group, now called the Equity and Aging Advisory Committee, who is overseeing some of the – or at least advising on activities of the Master Plan for Aging, as well as the California Department of Aging activities.

And very important to point out that California’s older adult population is more diverse than ever before. So by 2030, white non-Hispanic older adults will no longer represent the majority of older adults in California and will represent just one quarter of the population in 2060. So it’s really important here we recognize that we need to ensure that we have culturally responsive programs and policies and legislation to really address disparities in aging and ensure that we are providing comfortable productive care and policies for all Californians.

So as you know, we have five bold goals in the Master Plan for Aging. I’m sure you’ll talk about those today. I want to emphasize that this plan is for not just older adults and adults with disabilities but their friends, families, neighbors, co-workers, caregivers, really anybody who’s ever going to age. So it’s all of us. And it’s not just – so the initiatives focus at that state level work and on the commitments made by the governor’s cabinet, but as you know it’s a blueprint. So really, the goals and the strategies are where local communities can use – that’s what they can use to drive action on the ground and where you can identify what fits best for your own community. So you can advance change to improve the lives of older adults and people with disabilities in your communities and systems.

So I’ll briefly go through a few of these – all of the goals – but I know you’ve had time to dig into them. So – you know – goal one is housing for all ages and stages. We want to ensure that everyone has the ability to live where they choose as we age and in communities that are age, disability and dementia friendly, as well as climate and disaster ready. And this goal area is much like more in line with AARP’s livable communities. So we have more than housing in here. We have transportation needs to be accessible and get people to exactly where they need to go – point a, b, c, d – without taking two hours to get them there. We want to ensure that parks and outdoor recreation spaces and community spaces are really accessible for everybody, and it’d be great if they could be intergenerational, as well.

We really want to ensure that people and communities are prepared for emergencies. We already have seen significant wildfires this year, and unfortunately older adults and people with disabilities are the most negatively impacted by emergencies. We want to be able to create technologies and partnerships to really ensure that everyone is prepared and safe during these unfortunate events – and climate friendly aging. I feel like creating communities that are green and eco-friendly, which is a hot topic, is also a way to make things accessible and age friendly. It’s smart planning just from the get-go. Let’s plan our communities so that they really are designed for everybody.

So goal two: health reimagined. We want to ensure that everyone has access to the services that we need so that we can live at home, in our communities, and optimize our health and quality of life. In here we have strategies associated with home and community-based services – bridging healthcare with home. Housing is health. Health is housing. Housing was the number one thing we heard about during the Master Plan for Aging. So really it’s actually threaded through this entire plan. It’s not just in goal one, but it’s really important that we have those long-term supports and services available to people who want to remain in community.

And we’ll see the home and community-based spending plan proposals finalized in the next few months. So you can see that the state is taking this seriously. There’s definitely going to be major investments in improving LTSS. We’ve also joined the long-term care insurance task force. By we, I mean the California Department of Aging. That group is currently developing a proposal for long-term care insurance. And our equity work group that I just mentioned is conducting an equity review of the design and workflows proposed thus far, so that’s very exciting.

We’ll also see initiatives in this goal area related to health insurance counseling, which we have budget investments identified for ensuring that older adult behavioral health is considered by the behavioral task force and beyond. And Department of Aging recently joined the behavioral task force, I think for the first time, so that’s exciting. We know that there’s a lot of gaps and services for older adult mental and behavioral health that we would really like to remedy. Other things in here of course are nursing home innovation and dementia care, advancing research, and improving diagnoses and care. And a lot of funding in this budget and in the Master Plan is targeting communities of color that are disproportionately impacted by dementia and Alzheimer’s, particularly women.

So goal three: equity and inclusion, not isolation. Here we really want to emphasize that people have lifelong opportunities to work and volunteer and really just be engaged in society – opportunities for leadership. And then we’ve also included in here protection from discrimination, abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Most of these strategies and the initiatives therein are led by California Health and Human Services Agency, particularly the Department of Aging. You may have seen that Department of Aging hosted nine webinars on engineering equity and aging – [a] fantastic resource for area agencies on aging. [We] had a really strong turnout for those amongst aging and public health fields.

Closing the digital divide is a huge component of inclusion and equity. We’ve seen significant proposals, and in the final budget, we see significant investment in closing that digital divide, expanding broadband access across California. And with that, actually there’s $17 million in the Older Americans Recovery and Resiliency portion of the budget that is for the distribution of devices and to launch a digital literacy training partnership with older adults. So we know people just don’t need internet; they need the actual devices and then they need actual digital literacy to use those devices so that they may communicate with family, friends, and also with health care providers.

Goal four is caregiving that works. So we want everyone to be prepared for and supported through the rewards and challenges of caring for aging loved ones. So we really are talking high quality caregiving jobs in this goal area, as well as strong support for family and friends caregiving. In this year’s budget we do have almost $3 million set aside for a family caregiving program, which will provide supportive services to unpaid family caregivers of older adults and grandparents or other older relatives. And we also have the Labor and Workforce Development Agency engaging with key stakeholders towards the goal of convening a direct care workforce solutions table. This group will identify short and long-term opportunities to improve direct care work and address the direct care workforce shortage. They’re also going to draft an innovative roadmap centering high road training models and building infrastructure to go ahead and develop this pilot to policy pipeline to support a sustainable care workforce in California. We are like 600,000 caregivers short in this state, so we really want to make sure that we’re building a true career path, with certification behind it, with the opportunity for people to grow. People love being caregivers but they need it to be treated with respect. It is a truly a high skilled job and it needs to be paid and treated as such.

In virtual care expansion – additionally important. It’s easier most often for many people and more appropriate to be able to have that virtual care support, particularly in rural communities. So we’d like that to be as available as needed for older adults across California and people with disabilities.

And then goal five: affording aging. It’s tough to do in this state. We live in such an expensive state with a housing crisis. Older adults – 50 and over who are renters – are at the highest risk of becoming homeless in this state. So we have a lot of initiatives in here related to ending homelessness for older adults. Significant investments in the budgets this year related to assisting and finding housing for those who are unhoused at the moment, building on Project Room Key and Project Home Key. We also saw over $20 million one time and then $20 million ongoing funding for home delivered and community centered meals, because nutrition is a really important aspect of this goal area – ensuring that older adults and people with disabilities are nourished as they age in their homes.

And then we also have in here several strategies or initiatives related to income security as we age. So we’d like to bring the older adult basic income – that SSI/SSP and the cash assistance program for immigrants – up to meet the elder economic index and federal poverty level to really ensure that older adults have enough money every month to not just get by but to actually be comfortable and healthy.

PACHECO: That was Amanda Lawrence, Project Director of the Master Plan for Aging at the California Department of Aging, presenting at Our Community: An Aging & Disability Conference FREED held virtually on July 8. Next, we’re going to hear from Jan Arbuckle, the Vice Mayor of the City of Grass Valley, discussing her time on the Master Plan on Aging Stakeholder Task Force.

JAN ARBUCKLE: Thank you so much for the invitation. It is my pleasure to have been selected to be on the Master Plan for Aging as the only city elected official on the entire task force. I sat amongst people who were amazing experts in their fields. And I have to say, the first day I walked in, I looked around the table, saw everybody’s nameplate, and thought: why am I here? You know, I’m not a PhD. Aging is not my forte. But as we progressed, I realized in order to make all of these wonderful things happen that they came with our goals [and] in the playbook, you have to engage your local elected officials in order to have that happen. And so finally I realized why I was there.

And plus, I’m a big proponent and champion for our rural communities. I was asked: how did we get here? You know – as a member of the Master Plan for Aging, how did we get to our goals? How did the playbook happen? And it happened through a lot of very intentional conversation. Again, I say that the people who comprised that task force were experts in their fields from up and down the state of California and representative from everyone in the aging and disability communities. And I have to say that for me, having Ana Acton as being not only local to Nevada County, but as someone that I can talk to and get a little better perspective on how aging and disability communities actually are very tied in together.

And why do I say that? Because at any given point in our lives we will all have some type of a disability – whether it be a permanent disability or whether it will be just something temporarily. But we need to understand and have our communities developed and laid out so that we can all transition and go and be able to live our lives in the communities of our choice.

So part of the thing is housing. How do we do that? How do you engage your local officials in in housing? You attend city council meetings. You attend planning commission meetings and see that – the developments that they are projecting – do they allow for – maybe down the road – the opportunity to maybe lay out their floor plans a little differently so that they can accommodate a wheelchair for example, or ramps, or things that are not built so high? And so, those are all things that you can have an input in. So we need to engage with our local officials. And that’s one of the very first things that the playbook says – to engage them. And that’s one of the ways that you can do that and have a say.

Transportation is another one. Transportation is actually one of the key things that we talked about during our planning sessions throughout the Master Plan for Aging. How do we get [around] as we age? How do we encourage seniors and people with disabilities? How do we encourage them and make it accessible and amenable for them to actually go to the grocery store by themselves or be picked up? In Nevada County, I serve on the Transit Commission. Our transportation has what they call the golden ticket, which I love. I absolutely love this idea: anyone 80 and older can get a lifetime pass to travel anywhere that our buses – our transportation – goes to, which I think is a great incentive to get people out of their homes and get them socially connected.

And I think that during Covid, I think we’ve seen this: the isolation, especially of our seniors and our people with disabilities experience on such a great degree, because people basically forgot that, oh my gosh, seniors are one of our most vulnerable populations. Maybe we may need to go check on the lady three doors down the road. So I think that coming out of Covid, I always like to look for a silver lining. I think that one of the things is, as we become more aware of the people around us and the necessity for keeping that contact.

PACHECO: That was Jan Arbuckle, the Vice Mayor of the City of Grass Valley, at Our Community: An Aging & Disability Conference on July 8. Next up is a voice many of our listeners will recognize: Ana Acton, longtime Executive Director of FREED and host of this program, who is now the Deputy Director of the Independent Living and Community Access Division at the California Department of Rehabilitation. Ana joined us to talk about how local Aging & Disability Resource Connections, or ADRCs, such as what we have here in Nevada County, are integral to the success of the Master Plan for Aging in California.

ANA ACTON: So you have been here at the conference. You’ve heard a lot about the Master Plan for Aging, right? And the five bold goals, as well as a perspective from Jan Arbuckle on the Master Plan for Aging and how it relates to both urban and rural communities. So we want to take this conversation kind of to the next level and really dig into some considerations for what this means for our community and how do we advance the Master Plan for Aging.

So today at this part, we’ll be talking about the aging and disability resource connection model and how that might advance the Master Plan for Aging. So with the five bold ideas, right, for the Master Plan for Aging that you heard about earlier, goal three is related to inclusion and equity and not isolation. And as part of that initiative, there are some great strategies outlined, from digital divide opportunities, for work volunteering and engaging across generations. But also within that goal is a strategy related to California leadership in aging. And this is strategy F, and there is initiative 98, which says: build out a no wrong door, one door, statewide, for public information and assistance on aging, disability and dementia. The upgraded web portal statewide network of local ADRCs, with shared trainings, tools, and technology, and continually improving cultural competency and language access.

So right? All the magic really works on this local level. This is where we can ensure that the needs of people with disabilities and older adults are met. One of the biggest frustrations that we hear from community members – whether they’ve had a child born with a disability, or they acquire a disability, or they’re aging into disability – is not being able to do things that they once could. Where do you go for information? You don’t know where to go until you’ve been in a position where you need to reach out and figure out what’s out there. Often people know where they need support and help but often have a difficult time knowing where to go and how to navigate the various silos and systems and figuring out what is available in their local community to meet their individual needs.

PACHECO: That was Ana Acton, former Executive Director of FREED and host of this program, now with the California Department of Rehabilitation.

You’ve been listening to excerpts from Our Community: An Aging & Disability Conference FREED hosted with the Agency on Aging Area 4 on July 8. You can watch the recordings of the whole conference or read the transcripts on our website, FREED.org.

And that does it for the show. Special thanks to all of our presenters at the Our Community: An Aging & Disability Conference, and to our partners at the Agency on Aging Area 4 who helped produce this event. If you are interested in getting involved in local Master Plan for Aging implementation efforts, you can call FREED at 530-477-3333. This show was produced by Carl Sigmond. To listen to this show again, go to our website, FREED.org/disabilityrap, or wherever you get your podcasts. I’m Carly Pacheco with Carl Sigmond for another edition of Disability Rap.