In June 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order for the creation of a California Master Plan for Aging (MPA). After 18 months of work between numerous stakeholders, the MPA was released in early January 2021. The MPA is a ten-year roadmap designed to be the accelerant for change so that all Californians can thrive as they age. It is a critical visionary framework for all entities in our state’s aging support system to find common direction and work toward implementing solutions for both today’s and tomorrow’s older adult.
The Master Plan for Aging is released at a critical time as the demographic landscape in the U.S. changes. The older adult population is growing at an unprecedented pace. By 2030, 10.7 million people in California will be over the age of 60; by 2060, this segment of the population will represent 30% of California residents. The diversity within this aging cohort is increasing as well.
The MPA identifies five primary goals with specific targets and actionable steps to achieve them:
The goals are supported by twenty-three innovative and flexible strategies to support increased collaboration among the various sectors of the aging network. A crucial element of the Master Plan for Aging is its creation as a “living, breathing document” that is intended to be nimble and adaptive to evolving societal conditions. The MPA is further supported through a Data Dashboard that will monitor progress and imbue the plan’s commitment with a culture of transparency and accountability.
A Giant Step Forward
San Diego Seniors Community Foundation (SDSCF) expresses our gratitude to state leadership and the many stakeholders from numerous disciplines who joined together over the last eighteen months to produce such a valuable strategic vision. We are encouraged that the mandate to create communities where older adults have the necessary supports to thrive has been given a foundational home. In particular, we’d like to highlight three points that demonstrate the impactful nature of this roadmap.
1) Equity Is “Baked In”
In 2010, nearly 60% of Californians age 60 and over were Non-Hispanic White. By 2060, only about 25% of that age group will be White. The largest gains within this population will be Hispanic, Asian, and Pacific Islanders. The MPA acknowledges this demographic reality along with the inequities that disproportionately prevent Black and Brown seniors from thriving in old age. The effects of long-term institutional barriers such as health inequity, lack of occupational and educational opportunity, diminished inter-generational wealth transfer, and income inequality compound over time, following older adults into their later years. These weathering factors make it even harder for disadvantaged groups to achieve a good quality of life as Californians live longer. The authors of the plan recognize these social determinants of health and charge stakeholders with embedding equity as a guiding principle in the search for impactful and sustainable solutions to systemic problems.
2) Support Within the State Budget
The state is helping to ensure the feasibility of the MPA framework by providing financial support to turn its vision into a reality. The MPA was issued with some budget allocations that will be critical to producing early impact. Some of the new allocations for healthy aging in the State’s 21-22 budget include money for:
- Aging and Disability Resource Connection (ADRC): The state’s only coordinated telephone and online access system that enables older adults and people with disabilities to navigate long-term supports and services
- Office of Medicare Innovation and Integration: Additional funding will strengthen and expand access to high-quality aging supports and services for older adults with low and middle incomes.
- The Path Forward on Alzheimer’s: The Budget proposes a comprehensive and coordinated approach to Alzheimer’s with an emphasis on communities of color and women who are disproportionately susceptible to the disease and the most likely to become caregivers.
- Expand Facilities to Support Housing: The budget includes a $250 million one-time general fund for the Department of Social Services to acquire and rehabilitate Adult Residential Facilities and Residential Care Facilities of the Elderly (RCFE) with a specific focus on preserving and expanding housing for low-income seniors who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
- Increased Geriatric Care Workforce: The budget includes a $3 million one-time general fund for the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development to grow and diversify the pipeline for the geriatric medicine workforce to support the increasing and diversifying numbers of older adults who are living longer.
3) No Delay in Moving Forward
The MPA calls for over 100 “action-ready” initiatives that have already been adopted by state agencies and their partners to be put in motion starting in early 2021. SDSCF is excited to see synergies between many of the stated initiatives and our own work. Some examples include our recent assessment on the state of San Diego senior centers, a soon-to-be released master vision plan on the role that well-supported senior centers can play in realizing the ideals of the MPA, and our initiative combating the epidemic of social isolation. Further, SDSCF is building partnerships to address the rise in senior homelessness, create employment opportunities for older workers, and solve other issues of equity that impact vulnerable seniors.
While the Master Plan for Aging may be looked upon as a framework just for seniors, it hews to Governor Newsom’s “California for All” vision. The MPA is grounded in the belief that all Californians have the right to a healthy, fulfilling life and all deserve to reap a “longevity dividend,” maintaining a good quality of life throughout the life course. SDSCF congratulates all involved in the production of this critical framework and looks forward to being an essential partner in San Diego to bringing the vision of the MPA to fruition.