Under the Magnifying Glass: The Senior Health Policy Forum

Nearly 300 senior advocates, policymakers, and Linda Trowbridge (our CEO) and Grace Li (On Lok CEO) welcomed attendees and spoke about PACE programming.

“Today, 2,200 seniors around the Bay Area are not living in nursing homes because of PACE. This morning hundreds of seniors are being picked up at home after a home care worker has helped them dress and have breakfast. PACE drivers are bringing them into centers where they will see their doctor, stay strong in a gym, make new friends, get dental care and have a healthy lunch. And if they need it, a home care worker will be out again this evening to help them get ready for bed.”

Aging Homeless Population

44% of the aging homeless population includes people who have never been homeless before.

In 2017, an AARP survey of adults age 36-70 revealed that many Californians remain unprepared financially for retirement. According to Dr. Margot Kushel (UCSF professor of medicine and physician at Zuckerberg SF General Hospital), “People are spending more on rent – more than half or near half of their income – which leaves very little money for other necessities.” That means these families are “one small crisis away from losing housing.”

Though people are living longer and we have better technology and medical advances to help as they age, homeless people over 50 tend to have more medical conditions than others their age and older. This means that many elderly people are in the streets without healthcare or homes when they most need care from their families and communities.

Age-Friendly Communities

Identifying areas for improvement will help create unique plans for age-friendly communities. Photo credit: aarp.org

In the session about “age-friendly” communities, Karen Grimsich (City of Fremont) and Valerie Coleman (San Francisco Department of Aging & Adult Services) discussed the steps their cities are taking to create and foster these communities. These included collaborating with like-minded organizations and considering each city’s policies, geography, diversity, and transient nature

Attendees who participated in these sessions examined one city’s Age & Disability Plan, which prompted conversation about what other cities can also do to help. Valerie Coleman said, “Examining the strengths and weaknesses of the Bay Area cities deserves careful consideration when designing an implementation plan.” Identifying specific areas for improvement in each city will also help to design unique plans.

Housing Models

Photo credit: missingmiddlehousing.comHousing models discussed ranged from: co-sharing existing housing/property, legally building onto existing property, building tiny houses, and supporting policy changes that allow more low-income housing dwellings.

Architect Chuck Durrett, from McCamant and Durrett Architects, said what really matters is people. He stressed the importance of the needs of people when designing buildings. He also spoke about working together to create and get innovative designs approved. In a later session, an attendee drove home Durrett’s point that people and neighbors need to help one another to build a better community.

The 4 housing models discussed at SHPF:

1. Co-sharing existing housing/property

Laura Fanucchi, Associate Executive Director of HIP Housing, explained co-housing. HIP Housing has created and championed a program that matches housemates with similar needs and desires. This model could be used widely much more quickly than co-housing because it relies on existing housing.

2. Legally building onto existing property

This calls for property owners to have money or receive loans and to work with their city to build. Unfortunately, this would take longer to implement because it relies on individual financial stability and economic status, so is not a wide-reaching or dependable solution.

3. Building tiny houses

The idea of building tiny houses is an option that will take longer to implement, but could be a viable solution if funding is found and policymakers push for it.

4. Policy changes that allow for more low-income housing to be built in existing areas

The funding for and building of low-income housing has decreased drastically. As a result, the number of units on the market available for low-income people has also decreased.d senior service providers, gathered on December 6, 2017, to discuss and develop solutions to address the needs of the aging population. Topics covered at the 5th Bay Area Senior Health Policy Forum (SHPF) included: reframing aging, creating “age-friendly” communities, the needs and challenges of the homeless, and housing models for the aging population.