The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that more than one in five Americans will be age 65 and older by 2030. The trend is also reflected locally; while there are approximately 764,000 City residents who are 60+, projections by the California Department of Finance show that the number will surpass 1 million by 2030, an increase of more than 37%. In addition to increasing numbers, older Angelenos will comprise a larger proportion of the City’s population, growing from 19% to 24%.
These demographic changes will place greater emphasis on issues that impact older residents’ quality of life, such as health and wellness, nutrition, affordable housing, transportation and mobility, social interaction, civic engagement, and employment. Some older adults have a support system and resources to meet these challenges, however, others may require a safety net to protect their well-being. As a result, the City needs to develop effective strategies to respond to the needs of current and future older adults.
Purposeful Aging Los Angeles
The World Health Organization (WHO) has called upon cities to evaluate their age-friendliness and implement changes to address the unique needs of seniors. The WHO describes age-friendly environments as follows:
Age-friendly environments foster health and well-being and the participation of people as they age. They are accessible, equitable, inclusive, safe and secure, and supportive. They promote health and prevent or delay the onset of disease and functional decline. They provide people-centered services and support to enable recovery or to compensate for the loss of function so that people can continue to do the things that are important to them.
In May 2016, Mayor Garcetti issued Executive Directive 17 (ED17) which established Purposeful Aging LA (PALA), an initiative designed to improve quality of life for current and future seniors. The broad goals of PALA are to:
- ensure a safer City for older Angelenos;
- provide a more prosperous City for older Angelenos;
- create a more livable and sustainable City for older Angelenos; and
- run the City well for older Angelenos.
To accomplish these goals, ED17 established a Purposeful Aging Task Force consisting of 14 City Departments with key programs and/or policies that affect older residents. (2) The Task Force meets on a periodic basis to discuss progress in implementing PALA initiatives, such as developing an “Age-Friendly Action Plan” for the region, which has included community surveys, listening sessions, and working with subject matter experts.
While the PALA initiative represents a forward-thinking approach to making the City more age-friendly in the coming years, there are a wide range of services and programs offered by the City currently available to older adults. The Older Americans Act (OAA) was enacted in 1965 to provide services to at-risk older adults (age 60+) and help them remain in their homes and communities. The federal government carries out provisions of the OAA by providing funding based on each state’s share of the U.S. population age 60 and older. States then plan programs and distribute funds to regional areas based on a similar proportional ratio.
The City of Los Angeles is the only municipality in the State that is also designated as an Area Agency on Aging (AAA) by the California Department of Aging, and thus is a direct recipient of grant funding through the OAA and other sources. In 1983, the Los Angeles Department of Aging (LADOA) was established by ordinance as a Council-controlled Department of the City and is now identified as Program Service Area 25 (PSA 25) within the State’s aging network. Therefore, a named and defined City Department (LADOA) functions as the administrative agency of the State to plan and implement programs for seniors, and thus must comply with State and federal requirements for planning and reporting.
Many other City Departments also plan and implement programs and services targeted to older adults.
I. Programs and Services for Older Adults Provided through the Los Angeles Department of Aging
LADOA, as the regional AAA, describes its mission as: “to improve the quality of life, independence, health, and dignity of the City’s older population by managing community-based senior programs that are comprehensive, coordinated, and accessible, and to advocate for the needs of older citizens and their family caregivers.” LADOA administers programs, services, and activities for older adults and caregivers that are funded through the following revenue streams:
- Older Americans Act (OAA);
- Older Californians Act (OCA);
- Community Development Block Grant Programs (CDBG);
- Proposition A Local Transit Assistance Fund; and
- City General Funds.
According to the City’s FY2017-18 budget, LADOA received approximately $21 million in federal and State grant funds, and approximately $2.1 million in City matching funds. (3) In addition, the City allocated approximately $2.8 million in General Funds and an additional $3.5 million from Special Funds for LADOA programs in FY2017-18.4 The majority of these funds were used to provide core services to older adults in the City.
LADOA primarily contracts with community-based organizations for the delivery of the core OAA services, within distinct Aging Service Areas (ASA) located throughout the City.
Each ASA includes a Multipurpose Senior Center (MPC) that serves as a community focal point for services. (5) The City selects community-based organizations through a competitive procurement process and the organizations are authorized to subcontract work for specialized services. (6)
In addition to MPCs, congregate meals are available at several community dining centers within each ASA and more than 20 senior citizen centers that are managed by the City’s Department of Recreation and Parks (RAP).
Residents seeking information about services administered by LADOA can: (1) contact LADOA via telephone for information and referral7; (2) contact or visit their local MPC; (3) visit the LADOA website; (4) review LADOA’s directory of programs and service providers; or (5) review LADOA’s Kinship Care Directory. (8) Both directories provide high-level information about LADOA programs
and some non-LADOA programs, however, they do not include the full inventory of available resources or City-sponsored programs offered by other City Departments.
II. Programs and Services for Older Adults Provided by Other City Departments
In addition to the OAA services directly managed by LADOA, at least 14 City Departments provide direct program services or have implemented specific policies that are targeted to the City’s aging population. For example:
- Department of Recreation and Parks (RAP) operates senior citizen centers within some City parks that host activities, programs, and special events (9);
- Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) has a Senior Citizen Lifeline Rate program that provides reduced-cost utility services to eligible older adults;
- City Attorney has a prosecutor dedicated to elder abuse issues, provides assistance to victims of crime, and offers cyber safety training; and
- Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) provides inclusive programming for older adults including accessibility resources, health and wellness classes, and technology literacy classes at most of their 70+ branch locations.
These types of programs are an important complement to the core services provided by LADOA. However, information about these and other programs may not be well known among City residents, or even among City personnel who serve this population either as a direct service provider or member of the PALA Task Force.
Providing Older Adults with Easy Access to a Single, Coordinated Source of Information about City Programs and Services Designed to Improve Quality of Life
The value and impact of the City’s efforts to make Los Angeles a more age-friendly City is tied to its ability to engage older adults and inform them about the array of programs and services that are available. The City did not have a comprehensive or centralized inventory of these City-sponsored programs and services; potential program participants would need to navigate a maze of multiple websites, telephone numbers, and brochures to identify these resources.
This lack of information limited the effectiveness of the City’s outreach to older residents whose quality of life may be improved by access to available programs and services. In addition, it limited policymakers’ ability to: (1) explore opportunities for interdepartmental collaboration; (2) identify service gaps or program redundancies; and (3) evaluate performance.
Given these issues, we collaborated with City Departments to develop a preliminary inventory of City-sponsored programs and services for older adults (see Appendix A). The inventory includes information that was provided to us by 14 City Departments that are named in the PALA initiative, as well as three other Departments that appear to have programs designed for, or used by, older adults. (10) These include:
- LADOA (LADOA’s General Manager is assigned responsibility to lead the PALA Task Force);
- City Planning;
- Department on Disability;
- Economic and Workforce Development Department;
- Emergency Management Department;
- Bureau of Engineering;
- Los Angeles Fire Department;
- Housing and Community Investment Department;
- Los Angeles Public Library;
- Department of Neighborhood Empowerment;
- Bureau of Street Services;
- Department of Transportation;
- Department of Water and Power;
- Department of Animal Services;
- City Attorney; and
- Cultural Affairs Department.
The compiled inventory is intended to assist both City residents and policymakers, including the PALA Task Force, and includes information such as program description, location, funding source(s), and performance metrics. It should be noted that this inventory represents a snapshot in time; it is vital that the City develop effective long-term strategies to collect, maintain, and disseminate the information to older adults and their caregivers.
Because LADOA’s core function is to provide services to the City’s population of older adults, and is also tasked with leading the PALA Task Force, it is uniquely positioned to coordinate the maintenance of this inventory. Moving forward, the City should require Departments to regularly update this (or a similar) inventory listing, and could do so using a shared electronic document system, such as Google Sheets. According to LADOA, the City is currently in the process of
developing a dedicated website for the PALA initiative and can provide a centralized location to consolidate information about programs and services.
In addition to developing a reporting mechanism for City Departments to regularly provide LADOA with information about their programs and maintaining the PALA website, the City should develop a strategy to distribute this information. Partnering with external stakeholders to expand outreach to disseminate this information will allow the City to reach people who may be unfamiliar with the wide range of services and resources offered by various Departments serving older adults and their caregivers.
City Policymakers should:
- Instruct City Departments to periodically provide LADOA with updated information about programs and services for older adults.
The Los Angeles Department of Aging should:
- Collaborate with City Departments to regularly update the inventory of programs and services designed for, or primarily utilized by, the City’s population of older adults.
- Develop a multi-pronged outreach strategy that includes providing information on the PALA website and establishing partnerships with external stakeholders to disseminate information about all programs and services available to older adults.
- Monitor information reported by City Departments and report to the City Council about: (1) opportunities for interdepartmental collaboration; (2) service gaps or program redundancies; and (3) performance metrics.
1 Department of Aging, Department of Animal Services, City Attorney, Department of City Planning, Department of Cultural Affairs, Department on Disability, Economic & Workforce Development Department, Emergency
Management Department, Bureau of Engineering, Los Angeles Fire Department, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, Housing and Community Investment Department, Los Angeles Public Library, Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, Department of Recreation and Parks, Bureau of Street Services, Department of Transportation, and the Department of Water and Power.
2 ED17 also requested that the Executive Director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) designate a PALA liaison.
3 LADOA also secures funding for programs through donations made by philanthropic organizations and competitive grant awards outside of the OAA/OCA umbrella.
4 Special Funds identified in the City’s FY2017-18 budget included: Community Development Trust Fund ($300,000); Area Plan for the Aging Title 7 Fund ($2.4 million); Other Programs for the Aging ($463,000); and Proposition A Local Transit Assistance Fund ($400,000).
5 ASA 10 (Central City/Central Business District) includes two MPCs.
6 In FY2017-18, LADOA contracted with the following organizations: Alzheimers Greater Los Angeles; Bet Tzedek; The Center for Health Care Rights; CNS-RQA-CA, Inc.; Critical Signal Technologies, Inc.; Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles; LTSC Community Development Corporation; Mexican American Opportunity Foundation; One Generation; People Coordinated Services of Southern California, Inc.; Partners in Care Foundation, Inc.; St. Barnabas Senior Center of Los Angeles; San Fernando Valley Interfaith Council, Inc.; Single Room Occupancy Housing Corp.; Special Service for Groups, Inc.; Wise and Health Aging; Wilmington Jaycees Foundation, Inc.; and the Watts Labor Action Committee.
7 Older adults seeking information and referrals for health and human services can also utilize the County’s 211 LA system.
8 While the Kinship Care Directory includes a wide range of LADOA and non-LADOA programs, the directory is designed to assist older adults who are responsible for caring for grandchildren or other young relatives.
9 Program services may be provided at these facilities by the Los Angeles Federation of Senior Citizen Clubs.
10 The PALA Task Force also includes a representative from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA).