Inside California’s New Master Plan for Aging: An Opportunity for Reimagining and Reform

California’s much anticipated Master Plan for Aging, released Jan. 6, 2021, provides a roadmap for coordinated, system-wide change that equitably uplifts older adults, people with disabilities and their family caregivers. In this time of urgent need, the Master Plan is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to boldly advance solutions over the next 10 years.

This past year, COVID-19 has magnified long-standing system challenges, health disparities and racial inequities, while also revealing opportunities to reshape how high quality services are delivered and financed. Informed and framed by a diverse group of stakeholders, including consumers, advocates, community organizations and providers, this landmark Master Plan signifies tremendous progress to decisively address the needs of aging Californians through a comprehensive, person-centered and outcomes-oriented strategy.  

What’s in the Plan

With an emphasis on equity and inclusion, the Master Plan outlines five goals with 23 strategies, and more than 100 initiatives to drive action and results in the first two years of implementation.

California's Master Plan for Aging: Five Bold Goals for 2030
California's Master Plan for Aging: Five Bold Goals for 2030


Data: The Data Dashboard for Aging will measure progress on the execution of the Master Plan. The state will provide an annual progress report that will be used to evaluate and develop new initiatives throughout the next 10 years.

Local Planning: The Master Plan for Aging Local Playbook is designed to help communities, private and philanthropic organizations and government leaders to build environments that promote age-friendly and disability-friendly outcomes at the local level.

Addressing Alzheimer’s: The Master Plan includes key recommendations of the Governor’s Task Force on Alzheimer’s Prevention and Preparedness—chaired by Maria Shriver, former first lady of California—addressing ways California can prevent and prepare for the rise in the number of cases of Alzheimer’s disease and forge a bold path forward for an aging state and its families.

California’s Master Plan: The Potential to Make a Meaningful Impact

A truly impactful plan requires leadership, clear goal-setting that is backed by data, a comprehensive approach to system change, an engaged stakeholder process and accountability for implementation. These five essential elements of system planning are addressed in California’s Master Plan, as outlined below.

Decisive Leadership Governor Newsom in 2019 issued an Executive Order calling for a Master Plan for Aging with continued leadership from the administration for its development.
Rational Goals are informed using population and program data, which will guide implementation. 
Comprehensive All 10 Cabinet agencies contributed to the development of the Master Plan, and identified their lead roles for impact and accountability on initiatives where appropriate.
Stakeholder Involvement The state formally engaged a Stakeholder Advisory Committee and three subcommittees/workgroups (Equity, Long-Term Services and Supports and Research) through public meetings. The state also administered surveys and held additional public meetings, webinars and community roundtables.  Moving forward, stakeholder engagement will be reimagined through development of an Implementation Council.
Accountability The Data Dashboard for Aging includes a robust Indicator Progress Dashboard. The state will provide an annual progress report that will be used to evaluate and develop new initiatives throughout the next 10 years.


State Investment in Planning

A state’s budget is a reflection of its priorities. Governor Newsom’s proposed 2021–22 budget identifies key investments to implement the Master Plan. The proposed budget focuses on core principles of equity and inclusion to address the system’s most pressing issues impacting older adults, people with disabilities and family caregivers, while also emphasizing leadership to promote system change. Specifically, the governor proposes establishing a Senior Advisor for Aging, Disability and Alzheimer’s within his office; a Medicare Innovations and Integration Office, statewide expansion of Aging and Disability Resource Centers, housing investments and expansion of telehealth flexibilities, among others.

System Planning as a Launch Pad to Reframe Aging: Engaging Other States

Negative stereotypes and fears of aging have historically pushed aging issues into the background of societal discourse. The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified long-standing system problems that for years have been neglected. We know this to be true across the country, with other states facing similar challenges. California’s Master Plan has the potential to reimagine aging—affecting how society thinks about, plans for and responds with equity and inclusion to the needs of a diverse aging population that is often forgotten. There has been success in other states engaging in similar activities to plan for and respond to the needs of this growing demographic imperative. With strong state leadership, engaged stakeholders, public/private partnerships and an overarching commitment to system change, it can be done. Many said it would be impossible to accomplish in California, but today there is hope for meaningful reform.

During these difficult times, the Master Plan provides a critical template for a better life for all Californians, not only for our older generations—but for all of us—to age in dignity and with justice. As Governor Newsom has noted, California’s demographics are shifting, and older adults are the fastest-growing population group. All of us, young and old alike, share a stake in planning for our future. A Master Plan that enables older Californians to age well at home, with innovative solutions to address isolation and loneliness, enriches all of our communities.

California’s Master Plan for Aging provides a strong platform from which to build these efforts. As leaders of eight California-based foundations, we celebrate the Master Plan’s release. We are proud of the resources our foundations collectively committed to support its development, yet we recognize that the real work begins now.

As the state embarks on implementing the Master Plan, we all play a role in transforming services across healthcare, housing, social supports, transportation and workforce to meet the needs of a diverse aging population. No one entity can do it alone, and meaningful system change relies on committed, ongoing partnerships and leadership from the state, local, public, private and philanthropic sectors. We stand ready to work alongside leaders across public, private and philanthropic sectors to implement a Master Plan for Aging that will well serve Californians for generations to come.

For more information and resources, go to

Sarita A. Mohanty, MD, MPH, MBA, President and CEO, The SCAN Foundation
Shelley Lyford, President and CEO, Gary & Mary West Foundation
Christopher A. Langston, PhD, President and CEO, Archstone Foundation
Janet Y. Spears, CEO, Metta Fund
Mark Stuart, CFRE, President and CEO, The San Diego Foundation
Richard S. Ziman, Trustee and CEO, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation
William Smith, CEO, May & Stanley Smith Charitable Trust
Edward B. Kacic, President, Irvine Health Foundation