Aging Plan 2018-2022

“The challenge we are facing is not population aging, but outdated and ineffective policies and practices.”

Salzburg Global Seminar session “Aging Societies: Advancing Innovation and Equity,” 2015.

Introduction

In just a few years, one in five residents of Buncombe County will be age 65 or older. In fewer than twenty years (by 2035) projections suggest this ratio will be closer to one in four. North Carolina ranks 9th nationally in the number of people ages 65+. Buncombe County has one of North Carolina’s fastest growing older adult populations; and, its age 60+ population is already greater in numbers, and as a percentage of the population, than its ages 0-17 population.

The Buncombe County Aging Plan for 2018-2022 builds on the successes and lessons learned over a decade of age-friendly community planning and implementation work guided by the Aging Coordinating Consortium (ACC), the County’s entity that is charged with overseeing the provision of services to older adults and the identification of service priorities and issues affecting older adults.

The goals and strategies within this plan are the culmination of a comprehensive review of available secondary local, regional, and state data and reports. The goals and strategies also reflect responses to two surveys conducted during the summer of 2017: the Community Aging Plan Survey, completed by over 1150 Buncombe County residents age 50+; and the Providers and Professionals Aging Plan Survey, completed by over 100 service providers and professionals who work with older adults in Buncombe County.

This Aging Plan reflects the vision of an age-friendly community where older adults are safe, well and engaged. This vision aims to answer the big question, “Why an aging plan?” and even, “Why an age-friendly community?” It is our hope with this vision that priorities and resources may be better focused and targeted toward demonstrable results. This plan also reflects a set of values established by the ACC to help guide its work, including how it allocates Home and Community Care Block Grant (HCCBG) funds and other limited resources.

We value:

  • All older adults in Buncombe County, regardless of income or education level, race, ethnicity or nationality, ability, health or cognitive status, gender identity or sexual orientation, veteran status or religious affiliation.
  • A systems perspective to help us understand and address the many complex challenges we face with changing demographics.
  • A multi-dimensional definition of “livable, age-friendly community.”
  • The term of a five-year plan allows Buncombe County sufficient time to engage many organizations and institutions in the creation and implementation of a sustained process of improvement toward becoming an age-friendly community.

This Aging Plan coincides with Buncombe County joining the World Health Organization (WHO)/AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities (AFC) and launching a 5-year program, which will run parallel with this Aging Plan. In May 2017, the Commissioners resolved to join the Network, affirming that:

An “age-friendly community” has policies, services, and structures that facilitate older adults staying healthy, participating in economic growth, remaining socially active, and living in security. Communities in which older adults can “successfully age” are more likely to mitigate the challenges and enjoy the opportunities related to their older citizens. Actions leading to “age-friendly communities” lead to happier, healthier residents of all ages. (Resolution Authorizing Buncombe County to Join the WHO/AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities;” Consent Agenda; Buncombe County Board of Commissioners’ Meeting, May 2, 2017)

The WHO/AARP Age-Friendly Community (AFC) framework contains 8 domains of livability that influence the quality of life for older adults: outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication and information, and community and health services. Whereas earlier aging plans set goals and made recommendations within specific areas similar to the AFC domains (e.g., “social engagement,” or “financial wellbeing”), in this plan the goals stand independent of any particular domain assignment, recognizing that to truly improve the livability of a community for older adults, we must enable a diversity of community entities to forge strategic partnerships across silos. Within any given domain there exist multiple dimensions and stakeholders, thus to achieve the goals of this Aging Plan will require effort across many sectors.

As new and diverse stakeholders become engaged in the Age-Friendly Community initiative, it will be important for the ACC to evolve to accommodate the necessary growth and expansion into a truly community-wide coordinating body that accomplishes its mission. Thus, this Aging Plan includes specific recommendations regarding strengthening the capacity of the ACC.

Goals and Strategies

The vision for this (2018-2022) Aging Plan – of an age-friendly community where older adults are safe, well and engaged – is articulated into a set of goals and strategies (see Table 2).

The goals were selected through a review of available data. They reflect pressing needs and have the potential to be effectively realized through a community-wide, collective effort led by the ACC.

Strategies communicate clearly and simply how the ACC will work toward achieving the goals over the next five years.

For each strategy, the ACC will identify performance measures, develop an action plan, and create a dashboard, enabling the ACC to monitor progress toward desired results and to course-correct along the way.

Through collective and targeted efforts over the next five years, the Buncombe County Aging Coordinating Consortium will demonstrably move Buncombe County closer toward its vision of an age-friendly community where older adults are safe, well and engaged.

SAFE

1.1 Prevent abuse, neglect and exploitation of older adults

1.2 Prevent fraud, scam and financial exploitation of older adult


WELL

2.1 Improve health and wellness among older adults

2.2 Improve and support financial wellbeing among older adults

2.3 Improve and support caregiver wellbeing


ENGAGED

3.1 Increase older adults’ access to transportation

3.2 Improve older adults’ access to services and supports

3.3 Increase age-friendly capability of Buncombe County


AGING COORDINATING CONSORTIUM

4.1: Strengthen the capacity of the ACC to encompass the Age-Friendly Communities initiative and lead the implementation of this 2018-2022 Aging Plan effectively.