by Mark Boutwell, Executive Director
I had the honor on September 20th to represent Vermont at the California For All, Day of Action in Sacramento, as a team member of a nine-state Master Plan on Aging Learning Collaborative. The event was centered around California’s Master Plan on Aging (MPA) enacted by the Governor two years ago. California’s MPA affirms the priority of the health and well-being of older Californians and people with disabilities. It is a “blueprint” for state government, local government, the private sector, and philanthropy to prepare the state for the coming demographic changes and continue California’s leadership in aging, disability, and equity. The Master Plan for Aging outlines five bold goals and twenty-three strategies to build a California for All Ages by 2030.
It was an exciting day of inspirational messages and presentations. Stakeholder committees reported on actions they are taking to implement the MPA strategies through legislative bills and policy development. The keynote speaker, Ashton Applewhite spoke passionately about the intersection of agism, ableism and racism and the opportunities for action. Numerous panelists spoke on topics such as leadership and partnership in implementing the MPA, and perspectives on advancing systems change through the MPA. California’s Governor Gavin Newsom shared an inspiring taped message, as did Maria Shriver, Chair of the Governor’s Alzheimer’s Prevention and Preparedness Task Force.
The following day, I joined the learning collaborative representatives from the other eight states in hearing about all the efforts that went into bringing the California plan to fruition. Years of work went into gaining buy-in from stakeholders and policymakers resulting in the Governor’s Executive Order. We heard about California’s structure for stakeholder engagement, subcommittees and consumer input, and cross-agency leadership engagement. We ended the session with an in-depth discussion of how best to leverage data for developing and evaluating a MPA.
This was all very heady stuff but inspiring and informative. Vermont has already synthesized our team’s goals for the initial steps in developing a plan and identified potential activities we can undertake to achieve them. Our top priorities are to communicate strategically with the public about the MPA development process, to engage and collaborate with stakeholders that are not historically aligned with aging initiatives to gather support, and to elicit support from the Governor’s office. An important ally in our area that has already been very active in envisioning a local master plan on aging is the Windham Region Senior’s Health Collaborative. Organized by David Neumeister, Roger Allbee and Dane Rank, they have mobilized numerous resources to build the infrastructure of policy and services that will support older adults in the Windham County area into the future. We are very fortunate to have such visionaries among us.
Stay tuned as we work to elevate the conversation about aging in Vermont and lay the groundwork for a dynamic statewide plan with strategies to build Vermont into a stronger state in which to age well.