This past January, we wrapped up the first year of a three year implementation cycle with the Age and Disability Friendly initiative. After an incredibly rewarding and challenging year long needs assessment process, which included:
coordinating over 20 professionals, experts, and community members
across eight domains,
while also conducting dozens of interviews,
reviewing hundreds of reports, research, and topic related analysis,
All synthesized into informative and action oriented, domain specific memos
I want to start this off by loudly proclaiming an extremely obvious but recently discovered truth: the closer you get to your passion’s work, the harder the life/work balance becomes. Almost 1 year ago to the day, I landed my dream job and I have been jogging (often sprinting) ever since – it’s exhilarating, frustrating, time consuming, deeply satisfying, extremely challenging, and has left very little room for any other non-age and disability friendly topics or projects in my life.
As I was reaching out to community folks who have been a part of the San Francisco’s Age and Disability Friendly Plan, I had heard some comments over the last few months that some had felt like the effort and the plan hadn’t done enough to really engage people with disabilities or identify how their needs may differ from seniors. Additionally, when I joined the team managing this daunting project, I recognized how easy it would be to have a plan that was inclusive in name only – planning for a city that is accessible for seniors, as well as people with disabilities is an enormous task. Of course there may be some areas where their needs and desires overlap, I’m willing to bet there will be other areas where they differ greatly but we’ll need to consider and incorporate both perspectives.
I just want to share some fantastic news, a tiny (but hugely important) news item that was buried in my email box, which was buried in an e-newsletter and, from what I can tell this last week, buried under much louder, sexier, bigger or political news.
Nursing Home Policy Change: Moving forward, any residential facility that accepts Medicare or Medicaid is no longer allowed to include “binding arbitration clauses” buried within their admissions paperwork. THIS IS HUGE. What typically happens is that nursing homes can require folks to sign away their rights to sue for physical abuse, neglect, wrongful death, financial abuse or any other serious complaint. Which happens a lot more than the public realizes.
A sobering article the New York Times recently published (HERE) and has been spreading through our office and my networks like fire; “The Graying of America’s Homeless” focuses on the increasing age of homeless folks around the country, and more specifically in rapidly gentrifying cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York.
Sadly, this is not new news. If you work in the field of aging, chances are you’ve heard about this before. In fact, a decade ago researchers were already noticing an increase in the proportion of older homeless in San Francisco. In 1990, older persons were about 10% of the city’s homeless population; in the 2015 Homeless Count, more than 30% of homeless were 50 years or older.
I’ve adopted a new term for seniors, “olders” after picking up Ashton Applewhite’s smart book “This Chair Rocks: a Manifesto Against Ageism”. In it, Applewhite proposes using olders:
“…as a noun. It’s clear and value-neutral, and it emphasizes that age is a continuum. There is no old/young divide. We’re always older than some people, younger than others. Since no one on the planet is getting any younger, let’s stop using “aging” as a perjorative…” Similarly, she says, “’Aging in place’ – living where we want to for as long as we can – is many people’s top priority; since aging means living, let’s call it ‘living in place’”.