The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously this week to explore the feasibility of a new department focused solely on serving older adults, potentially including Los Angeles city services.
Supervisor Janice Hahn recommended the stand-alone department, suggesting it might be dubbed Seniors Advancing Gracefully Everywhere or SAGE. She said she wanted to focus on the strength, wisdom and dignity of seniors.
“I personally don’t like the word aging,” Hahn said. “We are growing older, there’s nothing wrong with that.”
By 2030, the population of seniors is expected to outnumber the population of children for the first time in U.S. history, according to U.S. Census projections.
Hahn said county efforts to serve seniors were fragmented and lacked an overarching strategy.
“A county department dedicated to older adults would allow us to coordinate our work,” Hahn said. “It would give us the ability to be proactive (on) everything from housing, to mobility, to health, to mental health, to caregiving services, to independence and preventing socialisolation.”
The county has been working to integrate those services for more than a decade, creating a Seamless Senior Services task force in response to a 2008 board request and instructing the Department of Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services in 2016 to collaborate across 20 departments on the Purposeful Aging Los Angeles Initiative.
The board directed staffers to work with Los Angeles city officials to see if city services could be wrapped into a county offering in some way.
Laura Trejo, general manager of Los Angeles’ Department of Aging, told the board that Mayor Eric Garcetti supports the proposal.
The board considered the motion in conjunction with a recommendation by Supervisor Hilda Solis to reconsider the structure of the Department of Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services.
She praised WDACS but said she envisioned “doing it in a more strategic way, doing it so that we’re really laser-focused on job training, employment and social services.”
At least one nonprofit organization said it could operate more efficiently and provide more services if the city and county worked in tandem on senior services.
“It holds the promise of creating no wrong door for families. This would significantly reduce confusion and increase access to services for many who don’t know whether they live within the Los Angeles city limits,” said Barbra McLendon, public policy director of Alzheimer’s Los Angeles. “They just want the services they need when they need them.”
A report is expected back in nine months.