In 2014, a group of volunteers formed the Age-Friendly Corte Madera (AFCM) Task Force with the Town of Corte Madera, Marin County agencies, local businesses and residents to ensure the quality of life for seniors throughout the community. The task force works to provide inter-generational programs for its growing senior population while achieving admission to the World Health Organization’s Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities.

These volunteers recognized the critical need to improve all aspects of life for older adults in a town located within the most rapidly aging county in California. Nearly one-quarter of the town residents are over 60, which is expected to increase in the near future. Many of these older residents will choose to “age in place,” increasing demand for in-home services and programs to support aging residents and their families.

After being unanimously approved by the Corte Madera Town Council, the Age-Friendly Task Force developed a survey to identify the needs for programs and services and mailed it to residents over the age of 60. The survey was also available online, in schools, at the Town Hall, Community Center and the Corte Madera Library. Community organizations, local businesses and individuals donated $5,458 to help launch this effort. The survey had an impressive response with more than one-third of those surveyed submitting feedback. Results were analyzed to determine needed programs and services. Staff then identified the town departments to help implement potential solutions.

Solutions initiated include:

  • A website with resources available to seniors, information, programs and hot tips;
  • Replacing and lengthening times of signals at pedestrian crossings, performed by the public works department;
  • Hiring a part-time recreation department coordinator focusing on senior programs;
  • Significantly expanding the annual Senior Information Fair, sponsored by the parks and recreation department;
  • Reaching out to the media and community about the age-friendly movement;
  • Broadening options for senior activities and day trips through the town’s parks and recreation department;
  • Reviving the parks and recreation department’s active seniors newsletter;
  • Partnering with the Corte Madera Lions Club and Rotary Sunrise to offer scheduled weekends throughout the year to provide elders assistance with free home repairs and minor household tasks;
  • An inaugural town council AFCM event honoring residents over 90; and
  • Support from town departments, schools, residents, businesses, the Chamber of Commerce, Marin County Commission on Aging, Marin County Board of Supervisors and a private foundation, all contributing to the success of ensuring optimal services and programs for the town’s seniors.

The Central Marin Police Authority (CMPA) provides consolidated police services to town of Corte Madera, and the cities of Larkspur and San Anselmo. It is the only police department of its kind in the state. The police chief and CMPA stepped forward to assist in implementing and furthering the goals of the Age-Friendly Task Force and the town to improve security and ensure the quality of life for its seniors and their families.

Because the Corte Madera Community Center has limited hours, the police chief offered the use of a conference room to conduct task force classes. The police department’s public information officer assists with public outreach at no cost, and CMPA also provides an 11-passenger van to transport seniors who do not drive to the programs being offered. These extraordinary, no-cost contributions by CMPA greatly impact reducing the isolation of the town’s seniors and their families.

CMPA is working with the task force and underwriting the RU-OK? program to check daily on the well-being of seniors living alone or other at-risk residents. Collaboration is also underway with Marin Villages and Ross Valley Village to establish a Twin Cities (Larkspur and Corte Madera) Village to serve Corte Madera residents, provide a wide variety of programs and services, and reduce potential for aging isolation.

The town subsequently received financial support from the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services, CMPA and a private foundation to further its programs. The Marin Independent Journal provides news coverage of the ongoing projects and progress, as does the town clerk who posts dates and programs of interest in the weekly town electronic newsletter.

Seniors are now better informed of available programs, often not exclusively offered to seniors, which encourages inter-generational opportunities. The recently launched Cycling Without Age Marin (CWA) connects younger and older residents to share not only a bike ride, but stories, relationships and exercise, regardless of age or mobility. The vehicle is an ersatz trishaw manufactured in Denmark. In its first month of activity, CWA transported passengers over 50 miles on recreational and utility trips visiting wetlands, parks and super markets.

The World Health Organization recognized Corte Madera in May 2015 as a member of its Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities, acknowledging the outstanding advancements made by the town enabling a better life for seniors and residents to successfully age in place. The task force was also the first recipient in the county to be awarded a joint grant from the Marin Community Foundation and the Area Agency on Aging.

The commitment of Corte Madera’s town government, staff, CMPA, County Commission on Aging, Marin Community Foundation, County Board of Supervisors and the task force volunteers can serve as a model for what even a small community can accomplish. The task force has been approached by several cities, both in and outside of Marin County, to mentor and collaborate with them in strategic planning and project implementation.

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Originally posted at the League of CA Cities.