For over twenty years local agencies and service consumers in Santa Barbara County have worked together to meet the needs of older adults. First they created a Long-Term Care Council and a Senior Citizens Advisory Committee, two groups that addressed the emerging needs of older adults and that developed pilot projects to meet these needs. In 1992 the Long-Term Care Council and the Senior Citizens Advisory Committee joined forces to become the Aging and Long-Term Care Network.
Since then this Network was provides comprehensive collaborative community services to older and dependent adults and serves as an advisory body to the Board of Supervisors. While the network successfully brought issues regarding older adults to the surface, it did not have a formal decision making body. In 1992 the two groups merged, and in 1999, with the Board of Supervisor’s support, the Adult and Aging Network (AAN) was created as a quasi-governmental agency under the auspices of the Department of Social Services (DSS). AAN was created to facilitate collaboration among agencies serving older and dependent adults, and to advise the Board of Supervisors on policy issues affecting these populations. AAN brings together senior service agencies and their consumers to gather information, generate solutions, and promote linkages. The collaborative nature of AAN makes it the ideal vehicle to implement services for high risk seniors and to initiate policy changes within the county.
In 2006, AAN applied for and received funding from the Archstone Foundation to develop a Fall Prevention Task Force. The creation of this Task Force has enhanced AAN’s advocacy efforts to include fall prevention. AAN successfully ignited other senior advocates’ interest in fall prevention, collected fall related data; developed a needs assessment tool; created a strategic plan; educated seniors on falls and strategies to reduce their risk of injury, such as home modifications; and encouraged older adults at risk for falling to participate in balance and mobility exercises. All AAN efforts resulted in recognition by the County Board of Supervisors; its members now support fall prevention as a needed service for the county. Information on the prevelence of falls has been published in the Annual Community Status Report. Additionally, fall prevention has since been recognized by the 3rd district County Supervisor, and the Board of Supervisors, County departments, and local community based organizations have endorsed a strategic plan to reduce the risk of fall among older adults. Moreover, county and city employees now receive training on fall prevention strategies.
Keys efforts leading to success include:
- Collaboration among public departments, County Board of Supervisors, community-based organziations, and local for profit agencies
- Highly publicized community training events
- Feedback from the senior population
- Collection and analysis of local fall related data;
- Distribution of information to the general population; and
- Commitment of key leaders on continued fall prevention efforts.