Encinitas resident appointed to advisory stakeholder group on aging

Shelley Lyford is the president and CEO of West Health

Encinitas resident Shelley Lyford was appointed to a 34-member Master Plan for Aging Stakeholder Advisory Committee, which will develop a plan for quality-of-life issues that will face the state’s growing elderly population.

“We will be one of the only states in the country that has a master plan on aging,” said Lyford, who serves as the president and CEO of West Health, which comprises three nonprofits that work to lower health care costs for senior citizens. The organization is funded by philanthropists Gary and Mary West, who are Rancho Santa Fe residents.

In June, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to form the committee, which now faces an Oct. 1, 2020 deadline to deliver its master plan.

“The Golden State is getting grayer and we need to be ready for the major population changes heading our way,” Newsom said earlier this year when he announced the Master Plan for Aging.

The stakeholder advisory committee has members from organizations such as AARP California, California Alliance for Retired Americans, and USC Family Caregiver Support Center, as well as Grass Valley City Councilwoman Jan Arbuckle and Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger.

“This is our time to come together to build an age-friendly California,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said in a statement earlier this month when the appointees were announced. “Government cannot do this alone — I challenge all Californians to join us in building a California Dream that is inclusive of our older and disabled neighbors.”

Lyford mentioned the “amazing demographic shift going on in our country.” By 2030, California’s population of residents 65 and older will approach 9 million, with substantial increases in the number of Asian and Latino senior citizens, according to a study from the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California. The stakeholder advisory committee’s recommendations will encompass all races and economic status.

The growing senior population is sometimes referred to in a pejorative sense with the term “gray tsunami.”

“We like to use the term ‘golden wave,’ because there are so many opportunities we can embrace, we can push forth with an older population,” Lyford said.

Minnesota adopted an Aging 2030 plan, and Colorado launched a Strategic Action Planning Group on Aging. Many cities throughout the country have also formed aging in place plans to help their older residents.

“We’re really excited to put something together that will serve as a model for other states,” she said.

Lyford, who has been with West Health since 2006, worked on the We Stand With Seniors campaign with the SCAN Foundation during the 2018 gubernatorial race. Their effort led to a pledge from Newsom to develop a Master Plan on Aging if he was elected.

The advisory committee will begin its work in about one week.

“Anyone who has a good idea, we definitely want to hear from them,” Lyford said. “This is an inclusive process.”

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