Report finds Marin not prepared for seniors

06/26/2014

Preparedness for a “silver tsunami” is the focus of a civil grand jury report released last week, titled “Aging in Marin: What’s the Plan?” The report questioned whether the county has done enough to fund social services and develop a financial strategy for a growing contingent of senior citizens. “Marin County is home to more older adults—as a percentage of the population—than any other county in the state,” the jury wrote. “If nothing changes more Marin County seniors will fall through the ‘safety net,’ and find themselves unable to meet their needs for food, housing, transportation and medical care.” The federal government provides multiple assistance programs for those below the poverty level of $15,730 for a couple, but the funding is barely enough for “marginal living” in Marin. Other seniors fall into a gap: they are considered middle-income but watched their retirement plans take a hard hit during the recession and now may need to hire someone to clean, cook or drive. The difficulties are exacerbated in rural West Marin and the southern hills, the jury found. Vast distances complicate in-home care and a lack of infrastructure like emergency medical care or senior housing is forcing some seniors to move over the hill or to San Francisco, said Pam Osborn, the program director for West Marin Senior Services. “Seniors over the hill can call out for food or take a taxi when they’re in trouble, but here we have to find rides and housing,” Ms. Osborn said. “We’re always looking for ways to keep people out here as long as possible.” The nonprofit manages up to 300 clients, two-thirds of whom are at the poverty level for Marin, a staffer told the jury. With the added help of the Marin Community Foundation and fundraisers like the upcoming Holstein 100 bike ride, the group provides home care or referrals, delivers meals for homebound seniors three times each week and assists with transportation for shopping or medical appointments on a shuttle or with drivers. In following up on a 2007 report that found there was a void when it came to having “a real plan” for the increasing elder population, the jury said the situation was no better today. The watchdog group recommended that the county develop a long-term strategic plan, continue to fund nonprofits so there is not a waitlist for services, improve the referral process between agencies, work with nonprofits on outreach and develop a contingency plan for when federal or state funding is cut. — Christopher Peak