As San Mateo County mirrors state and national trends with a growing adult population, Half Moon Bay is planning to join the network of cities that have passed initiatives to support services for older adults.

The effort is spearheaded by the city’s newly Age-Friendly Community Task Force and the Center for Age-Friendly Excellence, or CAFE, a subdivision of the Los Altos Community Foundation. On the peninsula, San Mateo, Redwood City, Daly City, Colma and Pacifica have all reached age-friendly status.

At last month’s City Council meeting, Roy Earnest, an associate director for CAFE, explained how the process will work for Half Moon Bay, Burlingame and San Carlos, the next cities to join the network. The idea is to join a growing number of jurisdictions expanding and improving sectors like transportation, civic participation, housing and health services for older adults. San Mateo and Santa Clara counties both joined the AARP’s Age-Friendly States and Communities last year. San Francisco County got on board in 2014.

Earnest pointed to numerous examples of what the process seeks to accomplish, including a reliable taxi service, pedestrian safety campaigns, multi-generational community dinners,and even workshops for finding affordable housing. Meeting age-friendly initiatives is a multi-year process, and the city will work with several different organizations at the county and national levels for the next four or five years. The first phase of outreach is expected to take five months as the city’s Age-Friendly Community Task Force meets once a month.

“It’s always been an idea that captivated me because making a place friendly for seniors also makes it friendly for other people, like moms with strollers or people with disabilities,” said Sandra Winter, the executive director of Senior Coastsiders. “I know when we say age-friendly we often think of seniors, it’s actually age-friendly for everybody.”

The task force will start outreach to residents 55 and older sometime this month to participate in focus group discussions on the needs of local seniors. Winter hopes to get people with a diverse range of backgrounds and incomes. Earnest said CAFE will then help the eight-member task force develop three age-friendly pilot programs based on feedback from focus groups.

Once the city’s intention is certified, it has to create an action plan focused on long-term sustainability after two years. After three to five years of implementing that plan, the city’s progress will be evaluated and subject to renewal.

According to CAFE, by 2030, at least 22 percent of the world’s population will be 65 or older and most will live in cities. The environmental organization Sustainable San Mateo county estimates that nearly 30 percent of San Mateo County residents will be 65 or over by 2030. While 2020 Census block-level data on senior populations isn’t expected until late September, some statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau suggest a growing adult population is outpacing the under-age-18 population and U.S. growth as a whole in the last decade.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Americans age 65 or older will grow by almost 50 percent from 2016 to 2030. By 2060, it estimates nearly one in four people in the United States will be at least 65 years old. In the Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey, Half Moon Bay’s median population age was 46, about 20 percent higher than the survey’s conglomerate San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley metro area, which had an average age of 39. Twenty-three percent of Half Moon Bay residents were 65 or over.

The 2020 Census data also revealed that nearly 79 percent of San Mateo County residents are 18 or over, just above the state average of 78 percent. In the last decade, the number of residents 18 or over in the county increased by more than 9 percent to over 610,000. That rate ranked San Mateo County 22 out of the state’s 58 counties. Meanwhile, the number of people under the age of 18 dropped 3.5 percent to more than 154,000. For comparison, San Benito County’s 18 and up population jumped 22 percent over the last decade. The state’s adult population increased by more than 10 percent from 2010.

Winter explained that because the effort is largely unfunded, the task force has to identify a reasonable scope of work. The city isn’t going to have extra funds set aside to develop an action plan outlined by the task force. Because of limited resources, Winter believes the task force must plan in line with the city to identify projects that meet their criteria.

“I don’t think it’s strategic to come with new projects that are so far removed from what the city is doing that they’ll never get legs,” Winter said. “We have to learn what the city is doing and partner with them to make sure we stretch the already allocated dollars as far as possible.”

August Howell is a staff writer for the Review covering city government and public safety. Previously, he was the Review’s community, arts and sports reporter. He studied journalism at the University of Oregon.

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