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Local Committee to Help Create 'Rural Master Plan on Aging'

 

Last updated 9/8/2022 at 3:51pm | View PDF



A committee has been given the task of helping to create “a rural Master Plan on Aging.” Members will consider the needs of rural elders and develop specific recommendations, goals and strategies for Kings and Tulare counties to be incorporated into the state’s Master Plan for Aging.

The local committee will collaborate with the California Department of Aging and the two other participating rural county areas: Riverside/San Bernardino and Shasta/Butte/Glenn.

The Kings/Tulare Master Plan for Aging Advisory Committee consists of elected officials and members of organizations serving older adults, including both county boards of supervisors, health and human services departments, veterans advisory councils and homelessness councils, as well as city councils and senior centers, and organizations such as CSET and United Way. Members participate in monthly meetings, providing input on the process, selection and focus of the study.

In conjunction with the Scan Foundation, a team from Fresno State will develop questions focused on the needs of older adults in rural areas and conduct six-to-eight listening sessions. They will also analyze and compile results from the sessions, creating a summary report of the findings. A list of recommendations will be developed, based on the feedback from the advisory committee.

California Master Plan for Aging

In June 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order calling for the development of a Master Plan for Aging – with a 10-year blueprint for promoting healthy aging and supporting quality of life.

The plan has five major goals, with strategies for implementation: “Housing for All Ages and Stages,” “Health Reimagined,” “Inclusion and Equity, Not Isolation,” “Caregiving that Works” and “Affording Aging.”

Rural Plan for the Aging

The committee meetings are led by Dr. Helen Militades, professor of gerontology at Fresno State University who is the main force behind this effort. She also leads the Central Valley Long Term Support and Services (CVLTSS) Coalition.

“As part of the CVLTSS mission, I am working with the Kings and Tulare Area Agency on Aging and the Department of Social Services to develop recommendations for improving services in rural areas," said Miltiades. “I chose these counties because in order to be successful, we need county involvement and commitment. The county directors and boards of supervisors have an interest and commitment to improving the services for older adults in their counties. The members on the advisory committee have specific interests and knowledge about the needs of older adults and volunteered their insight and time.”

In the Central Valley, the challenges of serving the older population are compounded by rurality. In California, 15% of all elders reside in rural areas, however, roughly 29% of all Valley elders reside in rural areas.

“Elders in rural areas are more likely to have health care needs, nutritional risk and higher incidents of chronic health conditions than elders in non-rural areas,” said Miltiades. “Service use in rural communities is often hampered by geographic inaccessibility, lack of transportation, limited service availability, and the inability on the part of older adults to pay for needed care. In short, elders who reside in rural areas have poorer access to care, poorer health status, and require greater levels of care compared to their urban counterparts. Older adults, who if they do not have family to help, struggle with housing costs, medical expenses, and caregiving needs.

“Rural older adults, experience increased isolation,” she continued. “They have limited or no access to transportation, meal sites, doctors and other service providers. They often have transportation challenges – they have to drive 30 minutes or more for health appointments. They may have less access to internet – and more consultation services are offered online – which means they are unable to access services this way.”

Last year, various agencies in Kings and Tulare counties fielded more than 4,000 calls regarding nutrition/food insecurity, according to Miltiades.

“Because of this, one focus area will be on the need for expanding nutrition programs and options,” she said. “Caregiving need is also projected to increase, especially in caring for seniors with memory loss, so we will be looking at the types of support seniors need to care for their loved ones.

“The committee has also identified housing insecurity as an issue,” she added. “This includes difficulties paying rent and utilities, being unhoused, substandard housing (lack of ramps and grab bars). Most older adults want to age at home, and thus it is important to understand the support and proper environment they need.”

“We know that (caregiving, housing and food) are the three things that we’re going to be focusing on throughout the two counties, but with an emphasis on those who live in rural areas,” said Tulare County Adult Services Deputy Director/Public Guardian John A. Mauro, a commiittee member. “These will be tailored by what we get from the listening sessions."

“By the end of the grant period, we will develop recommendations based on the interviews and the data collected from the various agencies,” said Miltiades. “We hope to have three of these recommendations implemented. These recommendations could include more cross-collaboration between agencies and making sure elder issues are represented. Perhaps writing grants and looking for government funds to increase service delivery. The outcomes will be based on the findings, so we can’t be specific yet.”

The committee plans to interview older adults experiencing different challenges. Some of them will be veterans, caregivers, Spanish-speakers, those living in the most rural areas, aging service professionals, individuals in their 40s and 50s (for long term implications), people on the public housing list, and those with disabilities (throughout all categories).

If you have interest in volunteering for a listening session, contact Dr. Helen Miltiades at hmilt@agewellfresno.com or (559) 676-6570.

 

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