One way for West Hollywood to show acceptance of its older residents and to keep them engaged in the community is to help them find ways to get involved, either as volunteers or paid employees.
For that reason civic participation and employment is one of eight subjects addressed in a five-year plan being developed by the city to help West Hollywood residents “age in place,” remaining in their homes as they grow older. People 65 and older make up 15% of the city’s population, and slightly more than half of them report having a disability.
The city’s “Aging in Place / Aging in Community” strategic plan is a project involving multiple city agencies that is being directed by Elizabeth Savage, director of the city’s Department of Human Services and Rent Stabilization. Currently the plan is being presented to various city boards and commissions and other groups for their feedback.
In addition to civic information and employment, other issues being addressed are communications and information, open space and buildings, transportation, housing, respect and inclusion, health and community and community services and social participation. This article is the fifth in a series that describes each of the eight elements of the proposed aging in place strategy.
Currently the city and various non-profit groups offer a number of options for volunteering. The city also has 15 boards and commissions and a couple of task forces dealing with issues ranging from disabilities to historic preservation to services for the Russian-language speaking community — all staffed with volunteer members appointed by the City Council.
Such volunteer and paid work are “a means of reducing isolation, increasing connectivity, providing service to each other, all benefitting the community at large,” the aging in place plan says.
The draft strategic plan lists two areas of focus for making it easier for older residents to engage in civic participation and find employment.
VOLUNTEER, CIVIC SERVICE AND MENTORING OPPORTUNITIES
Priority 1 Goals:
- Establish a WeHo volunteer crops that will match older adults with volunteer opportunities and help them take advantage of Internet resources.
- Find transportation for older adults looking to participate in volunteer activities.
- Add information about volunteer opportunities to any communications about paid jobs that are available.
- Create a mentoring program in which retired adults would be able to offer guidance to high school students, non-profits or other organizations.
EMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE FOR PEOPLE OVER THE AGE OF 50
Priority 2 Goals:
- Work with the Chamber of Commerce to encourage businesses to hire older adults.
- Promote workshops and services and websites that guide older adults into re-entering the workforce or creating new careers.
- Connect older adults with programs that would help them launch their own businesses.
Previously: Communications and information
Monday: Health and Community Services
Folks have been aging in place here long before there was a City. In fact the number of seniors living in West Hollywood is at a historic low largely due to the demolition of rent controlled housing. While the City has done an admirable job creating affordable housing, it is only available to a limited demographic and does not re-create the same ambiance of living in a building of mixed ages, genders and orientations. If preservation of our stock of rent controlled buildings was a priority, we would be insuring people could actually age in place.