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Celebrating Older Americans
Communities across the country have celebrated Older Americans’ Month ever since John F. Kennedy, working with members of the National Council of Senior Citizens, designated the first one in May, 1963.
This year’s Older American’s theme, “Blaze a Trail,” emphasizes the ways older adults are reinventing themselves through new work and new passions, engaging in their communities, and making positive impact on the lives of people of all ages.
Enacted in the same year as Medicare, the Older Americans Act has provided a nationwide services network of Area Agencies on Aging to help older adults live with dignity in the communities of their choice for as long as possible. In Marin County, the Area Agency on Aging is charged to be the leading planner, administrator, and funder of Older Americans Act services for persons over the age of 60 and family caregivers. The Board of Supervisors governs this agency, which has an annual budget of $2.4 million and is part of the larger Office of Aging and Adult Services in Marin County’s Health and Human Services Department.
To create a well-coordinated, community-based system of support, the Area Agency on Aging provides direct services and also contracts with a network of private and non-profit agencies. Eleven organizations in Marin, along with a large contingent of volunteers, assist the agency in providing over 20 different services for older adults and unpaid family caregivers. Services include meals delivered to homes and sites where seniors meet, assisted transportation, caregiver support, legal services, elder abuse protections, and more. On average, over 4,400 persons in Marin benefit from one or more of these programs throughout the year.
The Marin County Commission on Aging advises the Area Agency on Aging and the Board of Supervisors on the needs of older adults and recommends programs and allocation of resources to address those needs. Twenty-three citizens of Marin County, representing supervisorial districts and city councils, serve on the Commission. The Commission educates and advocates on behalf of older adults. It does its work by holding monthly public meetings throughout the county, working in a committee structure to address seniors’ needs, monitoring provided services, and interacting with the community.
Each monthly meeting has an educational component and members of the public are encouraged to attend. This year has featured topics of family caregiver support, Medicare updates, fall prevention, senior services in West Marin, and a public hearing on the Area Agency on Aging annual plan. The Commission’s committees are active in such areas as housing, transportation, health, nutrition, and community-wide planning. The Commission’s legislative task force identifies policy issues for advocacy, such as affordable senior housing and elder justice. Many Commissioners are working to make their communities “age-friendly”, and Sausalito and Fairfax have received designation by the World Health Organization as “age-friendly cities”.