Background and Context
The population of older adults in Berkeley will double in the next 10 years, resulting in 1 in 5 adults being over 65 years of age. According to a study by AARP and the Age-Friendly Berkeley community survey, the vast majority of older adults want to age in their homes and communities.1 With this shift in demographics and the desire of people to stay and thrive in their communities, policy makers need to look at how our neighborhoods are designed, including the affordability of places to live, the inclusivity of social activities, the accessibility of infrastructure, and the availability of jobs for older people. This Action Plan builds on the work of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Age-Friendly Cities and Communities Initiative, launched in 2005 in partnership with AARP in the United States. This network has expanded to over 37 countries around the world and to over 300 cities in the United States.
The Age-Friendly Berkeley initiative helps prepare Berkeley for its rapidly aging population by gathering input from the community and pulling together public and private leaders, resources, ideas, and strategies to address the issues raised. Age-Friendly Berkeley is a collective effort whose goal is to ensure that all Berkeley residents are connected, healthy, and engaged in their environments. Planning for Age- Friendly Berkeley was guided by a Leadership Team of individuals and organization representatives who have been key voices in community conversations about aging. It has members from the city, the health sector, and the nonprofit sector (See Leadership and Partners) who worked together to ensure that the recommendations are relevant and feasible.
The Age-Friendly Communities movement focuses largely on collaborations with city and county governments to anticipate the wants and needs of their older populations, as well as on the growing demand for and cost of medical and social services. With Berkeley anticipating a doubling of its older adult population and with the support of former Mayor Tom Bates in 2016, the City of Berkeley completed an initial assessment, applied to and was accepted into the World Health Organization (WHO) and AARP’s Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities.
Create a culture and community
that is inclusive, equitable, and
accessible for people of all ages.
The Goal of Age-Friendly Berkeley
Thus began a needs assessment and a 2- year process using the WHO framework to support Age-Friendly planning. The needs assessment included a review of related research and plans from other cities, a survey of over 1400 Berkeley seniors, 5 focus groups, and interviews with 18 city staff and numerous community partners. The findings are summarized in Appendix B and indicate that the needs of older adults in Berkeley are representative of findings across international, national and local studies and surveys. The community responses indicate that residents appreciate the service/activity rich environment of Berkeley, as well its walkability and its diverse people. Strikingly, residents’ feelings on whether Berkeley is a good place to age varied significantly depending on income. Those earning less than $32,000 annually were more than twice as likely to rate Berkeley poorly when compared to top earners.
Common issues raised by community responses included:
The high cost of living
Lack of affordable housing, including affordable home modification and in-home supports
Limited reliability, coordination, and options of transportation
Problems with sidewalks, poor lighting, lack of benches, and limited parking
Insufficient number of affordable, desirable settings for out-of-home assisted living
Limited options for subsidized services for moderate income individuals
Lack of “human touch” for information, referral and system navigation assistance
The Age-Friendly planning process also leveraged and incorporated community feedback gathered as part of the city’s strategic planning process and the 2018 Health Status Report. The City’s strategic planning process includes a focus on affordable housing, improving ADA compatibility, investing in infrastructure and improving access to information. The Health Status Report found many strengths in Berkeley related to life expectancy, but troubling disparities for African Americans and other people of color. This Age-Friendly Plan is presented as a complementary, consistent and collaborative set of recommendations focused on creating a city that is inclusive, equitable, and accessible for people of all ages.
Several themes cut across the plan’s recommendations and actions. These include the need to:
Create complete neighborhoods that have a mix of housing types and land uses, affordable housing and transportation options, and access to healthy foods, schools, retail, employment, community services, parks and recreation options
Foster ongoing collaborations within large organizations, such as municipal entities, and across sectors and community organizations, as these are key to implementing policy and programs
Leverage existing resources to support, expand and coordinate a system of services and supports for aging in community
Capture emergent opportunities and leverage innovations in both technology and care/service delivery to support community-based living
Strengthen intergenerational relationships because while programs abound, they are mostly age-specific
Work with other regional jurisdictions and Age-Friendly cities to address overlapping issues and services and to find solutions to common challenges.
“Housing is not affordable.“
“It is a lively city with active people.”
“Does not have a welcoming downtown.”
- Age-Friendly survey comments
The recommendations in this Action Plan are designed to build on what is already occurring in the community, improve impact, and address gaps. While recommendations are too numerous to list in the executive summary, the leadership team reviewed local results using the 8 domains in the WHO framework and identified 4 priority areas and goals for the Action Plan:
Implementation of the 3-year Action Plan
The prime objective of the Age-Friendly planning process was to develop a 3-year action plan to serve as a road map for collective action. Activities below are paced from Year 1 through Years 2-3, including evaluation and recommendations for continued improvement.
Designate Health, Housing and Community Services as the lead city department and the Aging Services division as the backbone agency to coordinate the initiatives
Form a leadership team from relevant sectors of the community to work with the city
Solidify action teams for the priority areas; prioritize recommendations
Finalize budget and Identify funding opportunities
Develop shared metrics and begin data collection
Implement internal and external communication plans, set up a dashboard on the Age-Friendly website
Catalogue and track efforts already in development.
Clarify desired outcomes and implement Year 2-3 recommendations
Monitor progress and evaluate results using a Results Based Accountability framework
Use the dashboard on the Age-Friendly website to track progress
Integrate focus on aging into ongoing operations and partnerships
Report back to the community on the status of all recommendations and begin to assess the next steps.