Social participation and social networks can decline with age for a number of reasons, including children leaving home, retirement from paid employment, and the onset of physical limitations (Desrosiers, Noreau, & Rochett, 2004). However, continued engagement with others is an important factor contributing to health and well-being throughout the life course (Rowe & Kahn, 1997). Participation in community activities can help older adults stay informed about important resources, remain physically and mentally active, support and strengthen social ties, and reduce negative aging stereotypes. Thus, age-friendly communities should provide a range of purposeful opportunities that are accessible and affordable and that encourage participation across all races, ethnicities, and age groups. Older adults can help support and revitalize communities in many ways, and their active engagement may benefit them as much as it serves their communities.
Though the majority of older adults in Los Angeles are generally satisfied with their levels of social engagement, the data suggest room for improvement in terms of increasing awareness and availability of opportunities for older adults to remain active and vital members of their communities. Research has shown that greater feelings of social connectedness and usefulness are related to healthier aging trajectories (Cacioppo & Cacioppo, 2014; Gruenewald, Liao, & Seeman, 2012). Thus, continued efforts to facilitate a range of opportunities for social participation are crucial to support the growing, diverse population of older adults.
Expand intergenerational social opportunities.
About 43% of older adults experience loneliness/ isolation. According to the Stanford Center on Longevity, intergenerational programming achieves positive outcomes for both older adults and youth. Youth obtain positive mentors and role models, which can improve self-esteem, knowledge and emotional stability among youth. Older adults can experience reduced social isolation, a greater sense of purpose, and improved cognitive/physical health. LADOA and WDACS, will work with relevant County and City departments to expand intergenerational programming in settings such as parks, libraries, museums and other nonprofit arts organizations, community and senior centers, and other facilities. We will also partner with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes at UCLA, CSULB and CSULA; ONEgeneration; and other organizations to expand intergenerational programming (arts, recreational, tutoring/education etc.) throughout the County and City. The County and City will explore a partnership with YouthCare, an intergenerational respite care social enterprise for Alzheimer’s and Dementia caregivers that was launched through a partnership between the USC School of Gerontology and the Youth Movement Against Alzheimer’s.
Expand innovative programming to decrease social isolation among older adults.
WDACS and LADOA will identify and implement innovative partnerships to decrease social isolation among older adults. This will include expanding pet adoption/fostering among older adults, including by exploring additional fee waivers/reductions of pet adoption/licensing costs for older adults; piloting a cyber-buddies program for older adults; and identifying/securing media partnerships to engage older adults. The Motion Picture and Television Fund has created an innovative program model – the Daily Call Sheet – which decreases isolations by arranging for volunteers to call isolated older adults and dependent adults.
Expand social participation and reduce social isolation through participation in the arts.
In June 2017, the LA County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion to fund the placement of artists, arts administrators or other creative workers, who are representative of diverse constituencies in paid positions as creative strategists in County departments to develop innovative solutions to social challenges. An artist as a Creative Strategist is someone who can bring artistic methods to help County departments achieve comprehensive and articulated goals. This Initiative is a three-year plan with two County departments hosting two artists in Year One; Year Two includes three County departments hosting three artists and in Year Three five County departments will host five artists. In 2017 the initiative launched with artists embedded in the Los Angeles County Public Library and the RegistrarRecorder’s Office. The Arts Commission will be accepting applications for awards to three County Departments in Year Two.
Recent research suggests “there are a variety of benefits for health and functioning from participatory creative and performing arts programs for older adults”. Benefits include “positive effects on general health, medication use, and the occurrence of falls” as well as positive effects “on age-related cognitive functioning, improvement in balance, decrease in anxiety and hostility, decrease in depression, increase in mastery, and increase in well-being,” according to the Journal of Aging, Humanities, and the Arts.