California Gov. Gavin Newsom called for a “Master Plan on Aging” during his State of the State Address this week, an announcement that some advocates for seniors said was both encouraging and long overdue.
The Democratic governor said he was motivated, in part, by watching his late father decline in health and battle dementia. William Newsom, a retired appeals court judge, died in December at age 84.
“The Golden State is getting grayer. We need to get ready for this major demographic challenge headed our way,” Newsom said during his February 12 speech at the Capitol. “It’s time for a new Master Plan on Aging in California.”
California’s senior population will increase by 4 million over the next decade, and double in 25 years, the governor said.
He added that the state’s plan must address its patchwork of senior services, its nursing shortage, the social isolation seniors experience and their transportation needs.
“I’ve had some personal — and painful — experience with this recently,” Newsom said.
Bruce Chernof is president of The SCAN Foundation based in Southern California, which focuses on improving the quality of life for seniors. His organization advocated for a comprehensive, statewide plan for seniors during the gubernatorial campaign.
“This is a huge and important step forward here in California,” Chernof said. “Aging impacts not just older adults but entire families, the fabric of the state and the state’s economy. Our new governor has shown extraordinary leadership in an area where other governors have not in recent years.”
Chernof said the state’s problem is not the number of programs it offers. It’s getting them to work together more effectively.
“It’s breaking down the patchwork of silo programs that California already has. Many are extremely limited in scope. Many have extremely long waiting lists, waiting lists measured in months,” Chernof added.
As part of his focus on aging, Newsom also said he’ll launch an Alzheimer’s Prevention and Preparedness Task force led by former first lady Maria Shriver.
Barbara Marquez, who serves on the board of the Northern California and Northern Nevada chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, said she was “elated” to hear Newsom include senior needs in his speech.
Marquez said she spent years trying to navigate the state’s cumbersome set of senior services while taking care of her late mother, Florence, who had Alzheimer’s disease.
“Try to maneuver all those systems — health, housing, legal — it’s not easy. That’s why when the governor talked about putting together a master plan for aging. I was like ‘Yes, please help us.’ These are real problems,” Marquez said.