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Introduction
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Introduction

Aging is neither simple, nor easy. Delivering health and social support for older adults and their families requires a countywide system of care to provide a spectrum of products and services that integrate government, municipalities, organizations, individuals, policies and the web of interconnected community and social networks. The volatile social experiences during the COVID pandemic highlighted the fractured environment of senior services.

This report, developed for the Orange County Strategic Plan for Aging (OCSPA) collaborative, aims to map that system of senior support available in Orange County, and shed light on it by aggregating and then analyzing the data available in four key areas: disability, the digital divide, food insecurity, and social isolation - specifically as they relate to older adults.

In order to understand this complex system of care, OCSPA has identified a substantial number of sources of relevant data, and begun mapping the major organizations and the services they provide, with the ultimate goal for the countywide system of care to more adequately meet the needs of those who need it as they age and to help them remain healthier longer.

You’ll find the system of care information in this report’s on-line sections listing data references (indexes, reports, and data sets), citations of academic papers, and other research and various California Master Plan for Aging (MPA) resources.

Since this work was time-limited, and given the distributed nature of data relative to these topics, this report is necessarily incomplete. However, OCSPA’s goal is to keep adding to this body of work, and to shine the light on other major factors that impact aging in Orange County, such as Housing, Transportation, Caregiving, Health and Social Equity. We are aiming to change the paradigm of siloed, one-off reports, by having an online, open, interactive and always up-to-date approach. It is our intent to continue providing periodic updates to this material. To achieve this, we have provided a dynamic feedback form on each page of this on-line report which allows readers to submit updates and corrections for review and publication, on the right hand side of each page. By allowing the community to submit new sources of data we keep the knowledge repository updated.

OCSPA Geo Maps Data Solution

In order to begin creating a ‘granular’ picture of needs and services for older adults in Orange County, OCSPA worked with Grounded Analysis to compile and geocode a number of data tables into an interactive map of Orange County relative to the four primary areas studied in this report.

Aggregate information may misrepresent the extent to which neighborhoods are impacted by service provision or demographic variation. For this reason, we have mapped as much data as is currently available with a view to providing county level demographic information for context about the issues, and to demonstrate the variation of this data throughout the county.

Visit OCSPA Geo Maps

By selecting different layers (and toggling between them) it’s possible to see that veterans aged 75 and older live in areas almost the inverse to households which receive SNAP assistance.

Choosing the layers by age reveals that Laguna Woods has the highest concentration of older adults in Orange County, with an equally high number living alone, and a cluster of Senior Center Congregate Dining programs, but fewer food pantries.

OCSPA Geo Maps data

Concentration of veterans aged 75+ (left). Concentration of families receiving SNAP (right)

OCSPA Geo Maps data

Concentration of individuals living alone and food pantry locations (left). Concentration of adults 85+ and congregate dining locations (right)

Covid: Crisis & Opportunity

The 2020 ‘isolate-at-home’ order of Covid introduced millions of older adults to the necessity of online services. An AARP survey revealed that tech spending for adults aged 50+ increased 194% from $394 in 2019 to $1,144 in 2020. The County of Orange sought to address the needs of citizens aged 60+ who didn’t have internet access by spending $2.4 million to buy iPads, data plans, and training to help them get on-line.

Organizations that address food insecurity found demand skyrocketed for services as older adults were no longer able to gather for shared meals in senior centers, or were concerned about going to grocery stores where they might be exposed to COVID-19. For example, when Meals on Wheels Orange County and Age Well Senior Services converted their group dining programs at senior centers to frozen Grab & Go meals and responded to the need to serve more homebound elders, they more than doubled the number of meals they were serving pre-Covid. For its Grab & Go program alone, Meals on Wheels Orange County served approximately 600% more Grab & Go meals a week compared to their pre-Covid group dining program.

How high these needs remain after the crisis ends is unknowable. According to reports from Feeding America, the pandemic and its ensuing economic crisis is equal to that of the financial collapse of the housing market in 2007. Like that event, it is possible that current food insecurity levels will take as long as 10 years to fully recover.

So while the higher-than-usual cost of all public social services may fall some over time, the elevated need will presumably continue well into the future, and budget accommodations need to be made for the increased costs.

There is, however, opportunity in any crisis. While the people who have been most impacted by the pandemic were food insecure or at risk of food insecurity before Covid-19 struck, many older individuals likely were in need of social services but had no idea what was available to them. The pandemic has proven to be a rare opportunity to reach out and inform the older population of care services available to them in Orange County.

Acknowledgements

About OCSPA

The Orange County Strategic Plan for Aging (OCSPA) was formed with the goal of creating a county strategic plan with the vision that Orange County is a place that creatively nurtures, encourages, and supports every person as they progress through each stage of life.

OCSPA has identified key initiatives to improve the lives of older adults in our community. This living report is part of a multi-year, multi-sector process for use by the entire community to create programs, fill service gaps, and provide data for more potent advocacy and public policy.

As part of this data report, we have collaborated with a host of local, city, state and federal service providers, agencies, organizations, and private entities to gather lived experiences from the caregiver community, older adults, and those with disabilities.

We are grateful to the agencies, organizations, and individuals who, in a spirit of collaboration and support, have shared their work and dedicated efforts with us.

Report Funders

Principal researchers and authors of this report:

Dr. Justin Tucker, Grounded Analysis
Sheridan Jobbins, Shapeable
Scott David, Shapeable
Adrian Shawcross, Shapeable
Dr. Laura Zettel-Watson
Stephen Johnston, Fordcastle

Thanks for special assistance with research and data collection:

Alzheimer's Orange County
Caregiver Resource Center OC
Conduent (OC Healthier Together)
Dayle McIntosh Center
Linda Zimmer MarCom:Interactive
Meals on Wheels Orange County
Mission Viejo Senior Center
Orange County Office on Aging
Second Harvest Food Bank

Additionally, we are grateful to Irvine Health Foundation for overall project coordination.

Orange County Strategic Plan for Aging Members:

Abrazar, Inc.
Age Well Senior Services
Alzheimer's Orange County
Cal Optima
Council on Aging Southern California
Easterseals Southern California
Jamboree Housing
Lisa A. Bartlett, Supervisor, 5th District
Meals on Wheels Orange County
OC Senior Citizens Advisory Council
Orange County Office on Aging
Orange County Community Foundation
UC Irvine Health School of Medicine Division of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology

Orange County Strategic Plan for Aging Cities:

City of Aliso Viejo
City of Anaheim
City of Brea
City of Buena Park
City of Costa Mesa
City of Cypress
City of Fountain Valley
City of Fullerton
City of Garden Grove
City of Huntington Beach
City of Irvine
City of La Habra
City of Laguna Beach
City of Laguna Hills
City of Laguna Niguel
City of Laguna Woods
City of Los Alamitos
City of Mission Viejo
City of Newport Beach
City of Orange
City of Placentia
City of San Clemente
City of San Juan Capistrano
City of Santa Ana
City of Seal Beach
City of Stanton
City of Tustin
City of Villa Park
City of Westminster
City of Yorba Linda

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