What They’re Watching: Sarah Steenhausen, The SCAN Foundation

Sarah Steenhausen is the Senior Policy Advisor at the SCAN Foundation. She joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss the CA Master Plan for aging and key elements the plan will need to be effective.

“Well, at the SCAN Foundation our primary focus is more broadly on improving the continuum of care so that people can age with dignity and independence. In California right now, a lot of our efforts are focused on helping the state prepare for, and plan for, its rapidly aging population.

A plan in itself is not the solution, but if a plan is done in accordance with certain factors, it can really be an effective blueprint for how we develop services that meet people’s needs.

So, for example, an effective plan has to have leadership. It has to have leadership from the state and the governor, but also from the Legislature. So, we’re really pleased to see that the governor has stepped forward and is showing some bold leadership on this. But second, we’re also pleased that the Legislature has been really engaged on this issue. Unlike in years past, where you may have a scattering of bills, we have a whole package of bills that have been introduced related to the master plan. So, we’re seeing some strong legislative leadership.

What’s also important with a plan is that it be ranked with priorities that are data-driven.

Third, a plan has to be comprehensive. Aging issues permeate all different sectors – health, human services, housing, transportation, workforce issues. You can’t isolate aging issues to one particular program or department. So, if we’re really going to figure out a way to meet people’s needs, we have to step back and we have to make sure that all of these issues are considered within the plan.

Fourth, there has to be a very strong stakeholder engagement. We want to ensure that we hear from real people. This plan should not be designed around the needs of a system; it should be a design around the needs of people. So, at the SCAN Foundation we’re going to be really focused on speaking with people, doing some human-centered design work, to understand what are their real fears and concerns that can be addressed in a more thoughtful manner through the planning process.

And then finally, and I think one of the most important elements, is ensuring that there’s accountability with a plan. So again, who’s responsible for ensuring that the priorities are identified and met and that the goals are achieved? I think that it can be cross-sector; it doesn’t have to all fall on the burden of the public sector in the state because there’s a lot of private entities engaged in this. So, I think that if all of those elements are realized, we’re going to help California transform how the aging experience is realized for older adults.”