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Aging University Sparks a Movement for Life Planning in Santa Clara County


Santa Clara County has one of the highest percentages of seniors in the nation, at a whopping 20%. But systems in the County and California have been meant to serve a smaller amount of seniors. Within the next decade, one in five people in Santa Clara County is going to be a senior.

In response to this “silver tsunami,” Older Adult Services of Catholic Charities launched Aging University, a yearlong series of events that teaches seniors and adults to prepare for aging. The initiative educates people on the various options that are available when they age, the different systems one can access, and where to get support.

“We have a lot of seniors that we see when they are in emergency mode and haven’t prepared for aging,” says Tatiana Colon, Division Director of Older Adult Services. “The cost of care can be very high – the whole goal is to create some movement.”

The series intends to generate serious discussion on the needs of seniors and what can be done differently for the needs of a rapidly growing population to be met.

The August kickoff event included a film screening of “Being Mortal” by surgeon Atul Gawande, sponsored by the CA Health Care Foundation. Based on real life experiences, Gawande’s film is based on his father’s cancer diagnosis and how doctors lacked the skills to help families prepare for dying. Although doctors are good at giving people hope, as Gawande puts it, “Hope is not a plan.” The film sparked discussion amongst community members, some of whom had started life planning with their families. Others felt that the film was truly eye-opening.

Aging University engages varying constituencies, including individuals, hospitals, corporations, and policymakers. The end goal is to create a legislative change agenda in July of 2016. “This is for everyone, because we all get older,” says Colon.

To learn more about Aging University and Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County’s Older Adult Services, please contact Tatiana Colon, Division Director, at tcolon@catholiccharitiesscc.org.