Target: Keep Increasing Life Satisfaction as We Age
Older adults have many essential roles in California’s communities: workers, business owners, volunteers, community leaders, mentors, lifelong learners, neighbors, friends, family members, and more. Each of these roles can provide a vital sense of purpose at any age. A cornerstone of building a California for all ages is continuing, evolving, and creating new opportunities for meaningful engagement at 60, 70, 80, 90, and 100-plus years old.
Digital technologies are fostering new opportunities for connection and inclusion for work, play, community, culture, and commerce. However, over two million Californians do not have access to high-speed internet and approximately 34 percent of adults over 60 do not use the Internal at all. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought these issues into greater focus and heightened the need for improved access to broadband, digital devices, and technology support for older adults.
Employment and volunteer opportunities, particularly those offering intergenerational engagement, can provide a powerful sense of purpose and connection. Over the past five years, Californians over the age of 55 accounted for 29 percent of all new employment. Many older adults need or want to keep working – at least part time. However, two thirds of older adults seeking employment cite age discrimination as a challenge to finding work.
Older adults can also be a major source of volunteers. Many older adults, especially if paid work and caregiving responsibilities become lighter, choose to devote time and energy to their communities – for example serving at food banks, as tutors to young children, and as poll workers.
One of the greatest threats to full inclusion and equity for all ages is elder abuse, which is estimated to impact 10 percent of older adults living at home and to result in losses totaling in the billions of dollars annually. Elder abuse can take many forms, including physical, sexual, abandonment, isolation, financial, neglect, self-neglect, and mental suffering. Women are as much as 35 percent more likely than men to suffer from some form of it. Our growing aging population requires increased planning and coordination to prevent growing abuse.
To build a California for all ages, all stakeholders and partners agree: leadership is key. California has a long tradition of extraordinary aging leadership, stretching back decades. (see Listening to our Elders). The State now has a growing and diversifying community of leaders at all levels poised to build on this foundation for the future, bringing forward the best of proven practices and new innovations to meet the needs of people we serve. Throughout this network, older adults and people with disabilities are the true leaders and essential participants in all planning, policy, programs, and advocacy.
As the most racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse state in the nation, California can lead in combatting ageism, ableism, racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, and all prejudices and in expanding opportunities for all older adults and people with disabilities to be economically, civically, and socially engaged, without experiencing discrimination or bias. California’s aging and disability leaders, providers, and partners are committed to becoming increasingly culturally responsive through strategies including trainings, data collection, public campaigns (including with partners in California’s entertainment industry), and targeted equity and inclusion goals in workforce, service planning, and service delivery.
In August 2020, Governor Gavin Newson signed Executive Order N-73-20 to deploy affordable and reliable broadband throughout the state. Closing the digital divide by increasing access to the internet and digital devices will improve the ability of older adults and people with disabilities to connect to family and friends, health care providers, and to access additional support during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
Scaling flexible work and education models, including virtual options, and preventing age discrimination in the workplace, can increase the inclusion of older adults and people with disabilities and harness all of California’s talent, professionalism, knowledge, and expertise
Volunteer programs for community priorities can intentionally and effectively recruit, support, and connect adults of all ages through volunteer centers, schools, community sites, libraries, and more. Older Californians have much to contribute to our society and to younger generations of Californians, therefore, developing opportunities for multi-generational exchanges is critical.
Through new statewide coordinated efforts focused on prevention and equity, California can strengthen prevention and responses to elder abuse, neglect, exploitation, and fraud with person-centered, data-driven, and culturally competent approaches.
Strategies to advance California’s leadership include establishing public information, assistance, and resource connection portals and telephone networks that serve the entire state; facilitating a nation-leading aging research collaboration with California’s leading universities; participating in AARP’s Age-Friendly initiative; forging international agreements; and reviewing and strengthening state and local government leadership and partnership structures, including those related to the California Department of Aging and local Areas Agencies on Aging.
Equity should be at the center of the Master Plan for Aging’s implementation. Systemic racism, ageism, able-ism, and sexism can only by eliminated through intentional systemic solutions. It’s time to transform our systems so that they may positively impact the lives of those most affected by historical and institutionalized discrimination and who, therefore, have disproportionately suffered during COVID-19.
PALA is a groundbreaking initiative and partnership, between the County and the City of Los Angeles, other cities, AARP, the private sector, and universities. The partnership was formed to help the Los Angeles region prepare for the growing older adult population. PALA’s ultimate goal is to make the Los Angeles region the most age-friendly in the world.