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Creating an OC Strategic Plan for Aging

Creating an OC Strategic Plan for Aging

Orange County’s senior population is growing exponentially while other age demographics are shrinking, exposing at least a third of our neighbors to problems we’ve never faced as a community. Although residents age 65 and above make up 12.4 of Orange County’s population this year, this figure will double by 2045. By then, nearly 5 percent of residents will be older than 85, an especially fragile demographic. The “silvering” of our population has wide-ranging implications on our local economy and increases the need for health services, housing, transportation and social services for older people. And while most residents plan to remain in Orange County through retirement, they’re concerned with how they’ll manage health care and whether they’ll have access to transportation services. The community leaders behind the about-to-launch Orange County Strategic Plan for Aging (OCSPA) are hoping to address these concerns and prepare us for the growing numbers of seniors in Orange County and the issues they face.

“Many nonprofit and county agencies that have been serving older adults are feeling the impact of funding that is either staying the same or decreasing, while there are more individuals entering into the 60 and over category and living longer than ever before,” explained Alzheimer’s Orange County President and CEO Jim McAleer, who launched the concept of the OCSPA, and who serves as Co-Chair of the Orange County Aging Services Collaborative. “Since the landscape continues to change, it is important for all of us to recognize that we need to strategically utilize resources to better serve this population.”

In 2010, there were 496,404 people over the age of 60 living in Orange County. By 2030, Orange County will be home to more than 870,500 seniors. This 75 percent increase over 20 years is just one of the factors spurring the development of the plan.

The OCSPA is the first attempt since 1999 to gather and coalesce qualified data and assessments on the state of Orange County seniors, identify their areas of greatest need and put into place ways to address those needs over time. The building blocks for the plan were constructed by Alzheimer’s Orange County and introduced to the Orange County Aging Services Collaborative (OCASC).  Seeing the potential of the project to impact seniors and the County, OCASC realized it was time to take the next step in elevating senior issues and adopted the project as a core program.

In October 2015, the Orange County Aging Services Collaborative, United Way, and Orange County Community Foundation introduced the vision for the OCSPA to a group of local leaders. Area experts on housing, health care, transportation and nutrition presented their perspectives on the greatest risks seniors face in Orange County during this event. . The plan is guided by a leadership Council comprised of a County Supervisor, local non profit leaders, city officials and non profit executives.  It will be operationally managed by a planning group of content experts.  When completed in  2017, the final plan will be presented to the County of Orange and multiple local government and nonprofit agencies for adoption, making this truly the first Strategic Plan for Aging incorporating funders, providers of service and government

Although the group believes they have a grasp of the big issues facing seniors – including housing, food insecurity, transportation options, isolation, access to quality long-term services and support – McAleer said OCSPA is “hoping to better frame the top needs and make an actionable plan. Different leaders hold different pieces of the puzzle, so it is possible that there is something that will be an ‘Aha!’ moment during the planning process.”

To kick-start planning, OCSPA will convene the first meeting of a leadership council Aug. 4 with representatives from the Orange County Board of Supervisors, CalOptima, Alzheimer’s Orange County, SeniorServ, Age Well Senior Services, Council on Aging Orange County, OC Health Care Agency, Office on Aging, Orange County, OC Transit Authority, Jamboree Housing and OC United Way and the Orange County Community Foundation.

“Based on the Leadership Council’s direction and the findings from our work groups, a three-year plan will be developed,” McAleer explained. “There are multiple directions that the Leadership Council could take, hand picking three-to-four pillars with actionable items within each pillar or working within an age-friendly community planning framework such AARP or the World Health Organization.”

Although there are pros and cons with each option, “our plan is to get everyone around the table to talk about aging on a regular basis,” he said. “Through this process, we are hoping to analyze the top areas identified by the Leadership Council and make a decision on where we can focus our efforts to move the needle. We want to make sure that this plan is making a measurable impact in the lives of older adults in Orange County and will help build capacity for future generations.”

To get involved with OCASC’s efforts or explore how OCCF is championing efforts to define how Orange County will support our aging population, contact Todd Hanson, vice president of OCCF’s Center for Engaged Philanthropy.

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