South San Francisco, CA December 11, 2017 Co-authored by Lynn Brunetti Ellison and Mel Ellsion
This past Wednesday, December 6th, Senior advocacy groups from across the Bay Area convened at the South San Francisco Conference Center for the 2017 Bay Area Senior Health Policy Forum. The day long conference centered on building a common ground where these Senior-focused groups might work together to bring practical and meaningful change in the areas of Housing, Healthcare, and Homelessness for our older citizens.
The morning began with key note speaker Dr. E. Percil Stanford, President of Folding Voice and KIND Corporation, delivering a talk entitled “Why Reframe Aging? What is at Stake?” Acknowledging the foundations that already exist in the areas of housing, healthcare, and homelessness, Dr. Stanford went on to examine how we might build on these existing foundations and how they need to work together to create a stronger voice. He emphasized the need for older adults to raise their voices and work with senior advocates to ensure policy changes around the “Three A’s: Availability, Affordablility and Accessibility”.
Following Dr Stanford, we heard from Assemblyman Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) who is Chair of the Assembly’s Committee on Aging and Long Term Care. He spoke about important State bills that are currently being looked at…or stalled….on the floor of the State Assembly. Like Dr Stanford, he also emphasized the need for Seniors to raise their voices and organize to make their concerns heard in Government.
After a lunch break, the attendees were invited to join one of three concurrent “breakout” sessions of their choosing. These specialized sessions, each consisting of a moderator and expert panelists, were divided into three areas:
1) Setting the Stage and Developing Policy solutions for Age friendly Communities.
2) Initiatives and Innovative housing Models Addressing the Needs of the Aging Population
3) A deep Dive into the Aging Homeless Population and Addressing Their Needs.
We opted for session “2” where innovative new ways of living were discussed. One idea explored by architect Chuck Durrett was communal living where Seniors work directly with architects to plan their own communities. Examples along with photos were presented of several communities like this already in operation across the country. Another alternative discussed by the Associate Director of HIP (Human Investment Project) Laura Fanucchi was the “Shared Housing” movement in the Bay Area where people with extra room in their homes are matched with others looking for affordable housing. Potential renters can be students, working adults, or seniors. HIP screens all applications, conducts face to face interviews, income verification etc. and when a match is agreed to, follows up to ensure the match is working well.
In the afternoon’s closing session, Dr Stanford and the moderators reconvened to examine the common themes discussed in the three afternoon sessions. Not surprisingly for anyone living in the Bay Area, the main theme emerging from each of the sessions…and really for the entire day’s meeting….was that more affordable housing is needed and that we need to think “outside the box” to create that housing. With so many talented and energetic people in attendance, and with the exchange of such in depth ideas and strategies throughout the conference, this meeting is sure to result in many meaningful changes for our seniors going forward. We shall see!