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Amidst Worries About the Silver Tsunami, Santa Cruz County Receives Age-Friendly Status

Santa Cruz County's State of the Workforce report, which was published earlier this month, provided hard data to support a demographic shift that residents have been discussing for years: Santa Cruz County is aging. (Photo:iStock)

SANTA CRUZ — Local leaders say they’re stepping up efforts to address the escalating crisis brought on by the so-called silver tsunami of aging adults, which has already reached the county’s shores.

The American Association of Retired Persons recently named Santa Cruz County as an age-friendly neighborhood. (Photo: iStock)

The Santa Cruz county recently received the designation of a “age-friendly community” from the AARP, which is an important step in its efforts to support the health and wellbeing of senior citizens while it continues to develop a Master Plan on Aging.

In a presentation to the Board of Supervisors earlier this week, Alicia Morales, director of the Santa Cruz County Adult and Long Term Care Division, stated that the aim of the two complementary initiatives was to build a community that promoted healthy aging for everyone. “It can’t just be a government initiative because it’s a big countywide effort.”

By 2030, one-third of Santa Cruz county residents will be 60 or older, which is higher than the already alarming statewide ratio that predicts one in four residents, or roughly 10.8 million people, will be that age.

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According to Morales, this trend is particularly severe in the healthcare sector because 20% of the doctors in the Central Coast region are 65 years of age or older.

The need for higher levels of care among our rapidly expanding senior population poses a challenge for public health, according to Morales.

Housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, civic engagement and employment, communication and information, community supports and health services, outdoor spaces and buildings, and transportation are among the eight livability domains that make up the framework. Santa Cruz County officials have added emergency preparedness and elder justice to round out their list of ten priorities in light of their particular set of difficulties.

After the initial request from 2019 was postponed due to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the board instructed the Human Services Department to seek the age-friendly status in May. The Santa Cruz county has now joined a network of more than 771 communities, including the city of Watsonville, spread across 12 states and 100 million people. Santa Cruz is currently in the application process.

According to Clay Kempf, executive director of the Seniors Council and Area Agency on Aging in Santa Cruz and San Benito counties, if the Santa Cruz county is able to advance on its age-friendly goals, it will automatically go a long way toward accomplishing many of the Master Plan for Aging’s objectives.

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