FRESNO, California (KSEE/KGPE) — In honor of “Mental Health Awareness Month,” and “Older Americans Month,” the Alzheimer’s Association is meeting with local leaders to create an age-friendly Central Valley.
As part of a forum last week, the organization joined community advocates and representatives from the Fresno County Department of Social Services, Central California Social Welfare, Evaluation and Training Center at Fresno State, Agewell Fresno Senior Resource Center, Home Instead Senior Care and the project director for the Master Plan for Aging.
In January 2021, the Newsom administration announced the release of California’s first-ever “Master Plan for Aging,” a comprehensive framework that they say will prepare the state for significant demographic changes in the years ahead, including the growth of the 60-and-over population to 10.8 million people by 2030.
“The thing about aging is no one prepares you for it,” said Helen Miltiades, professor of Gerontology at Fresno State, and one of the forum speakers. “All of a sudden, you’re older, and you don’t realize that you need information for it, that you need resources, until you actually need them.”
The Master Plan for Aging creates a 10-year blueprint for promoting healthy aging—including five proposals for building housing for all ages, improving access to health services, providing inclusive opportunities for seniors to live and work without fear of abuse and neglect, bolstering the caregiving workforce, and increasing economic security for aging Californians.
During last week’s forum, advocates discussed ways to fulfill these goals in the Central Valley, especially in rural communities of color hardest hit by Covid-19.
Speakers brough up the digital divide as another issue further exacerbated by the pandemic.
“I think for older adults, one of the biggest barriers has been access to technology, and being comfortable using technology,” said Miltiades.
The master plan also includes initiatives for addressing staffing shortages in skilled nursing facilities, another COVID-19 byproduct.
“The Plan reflects more than a year of hard work, research and sustained engagement to drive the partnerships that will improve lives for the older Californians of today and tomorrow,”
Governor Newsom said in a press release after the project was unveiled in January. “I thank everyone who contributed to this tremendous blueprint for the work to come.”
Central Valley advocates like the Alzheimer’s Association plan to continue working with local and state leaders on raising awareness about the challenges older Americans face, and on bringing the Master Plan’s initiatives to fruition in the San Joaquin Valley.