This year, Board of Supervisors Chair Chris Coursey assigned me as the Board representative to Aging Together, a leadership committee in the county’s Adult and Aging Division. Issues impacting older adults are very important to residents of my District, so this assignment was a natural fit. District 1 has the highest median age among residents of Sonoma County’s five supervisorial districts, at 46.9 years. The next closest is District 2, at 40.9 years, a significant jump.
Additionally, the last several years have highlighted just how essential resources for older adults are in our community. Older adults are uniquely vulnerable to disasters and emergencies: the COVID-19 pandemic, fires and evacuation, inflation and the rising cost of living. With all of this in mind, I look forward to my role on Aging Together and the opportunity therein to work on Sonoma County’s Local Master Plan on Aging.
What is a Master Plan on Aging, and why is the County of Sonoma taking this on locally? Governor Gavin Newsom introduced the California Master Plan on Aging in early 2021, acknowledging the needs of an aging population statewide. Sonoma County is emblematic of these needs, with a population that is both aging and shrinking at the same time. The initiative has five goals: Housing for all Ages & Stages, Health Reimagined, Inclusion & Equity, Caregiving that Works, and Affording Aging. In drafting a Local Master Plan, in alignment with the state plan, the county will be able to address the unique needs of Sonoma County residents in areas including healthcare and housing, recreation and lifelong learning, as well as transportation and financial security.
A Master Plan on Aging does not serve only adults over the age of 60. It allows us to consider aging as part of a community, for aging across one’s lifetime, amongst family, friends, and neighbors of all ages and backgrounds.
One of my priorities is ensuring that older adults in our smaller cities and rural corners of the county have access to the resources they need. I see this time and again representing District 1: whether we are talking about older adults, mental health, homelessness, food insecurity, services are often concentrated in Santa Rosa and along the Highway 101 corridor but are more difficult to reach for residents of the more isolated Sonoma Valley, North County, and our coastal and Russian River communities. I am also interested in ensuring that we provide culturally responsive resources that meet the needs of all our diverse communities in Sonoma County.
I know many of you might be asking, how can I get involved? The county is seeking applicants to join the Master Plan steering committee, which will have 15 members and meet monthly for ten months to share local knowledge on areas including housing, health, wellness, community, caregiving, and economic security. Applications are due on April 21, 2023. I encourage you to visit the county’s Human Services Department website to apply: https://sonomacounty.ca.gov/health-and-human-services/human-services/boards-commissions-and-committees
The completed Local Master Plan will be presented to the Board of Supervisors in March 2024, and will include bold goals and strategies for Sonoma County through 2030. I’m excited to be participating in this process in my final two years in office, especially given its significance to First District residents. I’m excited to work alongside the steering committee to create a plan that ensures Sonoma County best serves its residents at any age.