Opinion: Berkeley will be a leader in making cities ‘aging friendly’

Berkeley and a group of community organizations are working together to ensure that older residents have options to age ‘well’ in the city.

In an opinion piece on July 12, Marie Jobling, Cathy Spensley and Susanne Stadler state the imperative that Berkeley “become a leader again” and address the needs of its growing older adult population.

Efforts are currently underway for Berkeley to take such leadership. Led by a partnership between Ashby Village, the city of Berkeley, the Center for Independent Living and Lifelong Medical Care, Berkeley recently completed an initial needs assessment, applied for and was designated an Age Friendly City by WHO (the World Health Organization) and AARP.

With this designation, we will be producing a 3 to 5-year action plan by November 2018 that addresses priorities to make Berkeley more aging friendly. The objective of the plan is to increase Berkeley’s capacity to maximize the independence and quality of life of older adults, especially those in low/moderate income households.

The WHO model views a city across eight domains: spaces and buildings; transportation; housing; social participation; respect and social inclusion; civic participation and employment; communication and information; community engagement and health services. From an initial assessment done through surveys and focus groups, the following priority issues identified include:

  • Enough money to live on
  • Housing: affordable, accessible housing; service-linked housing; alternative options for out-of-home living, including assisted living and memory care
  • Expansion of eligibility criteria for subsidized services to raise access levels up to moderate income
  • Innovations in both technology and care/service delivery to support community-based living (and control costs) for as long as possible
  • More “human touch” for information, referral, and system navigation; and
  • More active fall prevention outreach and home modification programming.

The next phase of the project will focus on further public input and participation to sharpen the focus of Berkeley’s Age-Friendly plan; continued research into best practices of specific age-friendly efforts in counties and cities throughout the country; and the drafting of a plan (that includes evaluation) to submit to AARP and WHO.

Public input and participation will be gathered through a variety of efforts, including community meetings, focus groups, surveys, and use of key partnerships, such as AARP membership, local non-profits, and senior centers. This effort will be supported through the development of a community advisory council. By November 2018, Berkeley will submit its plan that addresses the priority areas identified in these 8 domains (or others that evolve as critical) through the coming year’s planning.

Andy Gaines has served as the founding executive director of Ashby Village since July 2010.