California has largest projected growth of older adults in the United States. Understanding challenges facing the Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) within California can help other local governments and community planners find solutions. The Sonoma County Area Agency on Aging is required to submit strategic plans every four years to the California Department on Aging. The County will experience a 214 percent growth in its age 85+ demographic between 2000 and 2040.
Sonoma County is classified as a rural county, but is increasingly urban. The senior Latino population of Sonoma County is exploding, from 5 percent in 2000 to 27 percent by 2040 (page 8). The rapid growth of Latinos means AAA’s efforts to provide services for them constitute a large part of the strategic plan. Sonoma County’s challenges are compounded by three components. The first is that though the designation is rural, according to AAA planners, it is fast becoming urban. This impacts funding. The second is that the geography of Sonoma County places a continuing overreliance on motor transportation, and therefore, creates challenges in services as adults grow older. The third is less funding overall despite increasing costs and needs.
Other plan highlights include:
- “Older Latinos are more likely to be poor than their white counterparts” (page 22) and the Latino senior population is expanding rapidly. In addition, a high percentage of Latinos in the area are “linguistically isolated” and are in need of nutritional services (page 22-23). Additionally, Latinos in Sonoma County tend to lack health insurance, have limited access to care and have higher rates of health issues (Latinos are four times more likely to have diabetes and show symptoms of Alzheimer’s seven years earlier than their white counterparts on average (page 24)). To meet this need, the Sonoma AAA is focusing on partnerships and services that reach the entire Latino family. The reason is largely cultural. Latinos tend to rely heavily on their social networks and families for information and help. By reaching all Latinos, Sonoma reaches seniors. This approach is an important ethnic differential in strategies for local planners with large Latino populations.
- The “number one need” for seniors in Sonoma County is transportation options (page 9). To meet that need Sonoma County, in conjunction with city transportation planners, is exploring “small-scale, alternative and community-based transportation options” (page 9) to provide seniors with services. The plan involves intentional collaboration between the AAA and transportation planning initiatives. These include SMART (Sonoma Marin Area Rapid Transit) feeder transportation (page 33) designed to provide transportation services to and from train stops. When transportation planning is done in conjunction with age wave planning, smarter services for seniors can be provided with less resistance.
How to Use
Community planners and local governments with growing senior Latino segments, moving from rural to urban designations, or exploring new transportation initiatives within their own counties, can use this report to begin dialoguing about best practices. As counties explore how to best use their shrinking resources, this report can help them save time by connecting with others experiencing similar challenges.
View full report: Sonoma County Area Agency on Aging Plan – 2009–2012 (PDF – 935 KB)