Developing California’s Master Plan for Aging: Examples from Other States and Relevant California Efforts


California Governor Newsom called for the development of a Master Plan for Aging, which marks a historic step. The governor stated this plan will serve as a blueprint to prepare California for future demographic changes. In this policy brief, we look at examples from other states and relevant California efforts.

Date Updated: 06/11/2019


On June 10, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-14-19 that calls for the development of a Master Plan for Aging, marking a historic step forward.1 The governor stated that the Master Plan will serve as a blueprint for all sectors to promote healthy aging and prepare California for future demographic changes. Thoughtful development and implementation of this Master Plan will enable a more person-centered, efficient, effective service system to meet the needs of older adults and their families for today and tomorrow.

As California embarks on this Master Plan effort, the state has an opportunity to learn from other planning efforts and build on best practices to achieve meaningful change. California is not the first state to develop a Master Plan for Aging. Experience from other states shows that master plans for aging are most successful when developed with strong leadership, as well as a comprehensive approach including measurable outcomes, specified priorities, and timelines. Additionally, California has developed valuable master plans in other issue areas and can draw on these successes.

This policy brief outlines a wellspring of knowledge and effort to support California’s development of a Master Plan for Aging. First, it provides an overview of other states’ master plan for aging efforts. Second, it displays three of California’s master plan efforts in the areas of transportation, education, and climate change. Finally, it shares the depth of knowledge about California’s aging system and recommendations that have sought to transform care delivery over the last 15 years. All of these examples provide insight into how intentional planning can lead to successful outcomes. While no one plan is perfect, California can apply lessons learned and institute a planning approach that ensures all residents have the opportunity to age with dignity and independence.

Examples of Other States’ Master Plans

Table 1 outlines how the states of Colorado, Connecticut, Minnesota, and Washington have implemented planning processes that reflect a variety of approaches to addressing system change. Each master plan varies in regard to the range of issues addressed, ranking of priorities, stakeholder involvement, and the extent to which there are accountable and measurable outcomes. Each state’s process was driven by state-level leadership, with specific examples below.

  • Colorado: Colorado’s Strategic Action Plan on Aging is led by a planning group of state and local representatives, as well as providers and advocates. The plan addresses a range of issues from age-friendly communities, housing, transportation and workforce. It is updated every two years, but does not include any discernable measurable outcomes. Colorado engaged in extensive stakeholder outreach through its “Conversations on Aging” project that helped inform the planning process.2
  • Connecticut: Connecticut’s Real Choice for Long-Term Services and Supports plan focuses primarily on long-term services and supports (LTSS), with a planning committee comprised of state and legislative representatives. The planning committee presents its report to the Legislature every three years, which includes identifying progress toward meeting established goals.3
  • Minnesota: Minnesota was one of the earlier states engaging in system planning through its Aging 2030 initiative, with goals centered on a range of issues including redefining work and retirement; supporting caregivers; and enhancing the use of technology, among others. While Aging 2030 does not outline measurable outcomes, the state has adopted annual performance measures related to programs serving older adults and people with disabilities.4
  • Washington: Washington’s Aging and Long-Term Support Administration: Strategic Plan includes strategic objectives with quantified success measures, as well as a timeline and action plan. The plan established goals with specified benchmarks through a “Commitment Scorecard” that is updated annually, ranking the state on its success in transforming lives.5

Successful Planning: Examples from California

Table 2 shows how California has championed a number of successful system transformation efforts through intentional planning. For example, since 1960, California’s Master Plan for Higher Education has forged the state’s colleges and universities into a coordinated system based on core principles with clear goals. This has guided the state through decades of intense demand for college education.

Another example is offered by the 2009 Climate Adaptation Strategy (CAS), a first-of-its-kind multi-sector strategy to help guide the state’s efforts in adapting to climate change. The CAS applied climate models to assess statewide climate impacts as a basis for providing guidance for establishing actions that prepare, prevent, and respond to the effects of climate change. While the below plans are not related to aging issues, they demonstrate effective approaches California has undergone to institute significant system-level planning.

California’s Past Aging Plans/Reports: Not to Be Confused with a Master Plan

Table 3 provides a compendium of reports released over the past 15 years that address a range of issues associated with California’s aging population. While the reports helped spur dialogue and engage stakeholders on the system issues in their respective time span, none were backed by the governor or Administration and were lacking the critical momentum for meaningful system change to be considered a definitive “master plan for aging.” These reports instead deliver meaningful background, a wealth of recommendations, and the beginnings of a contextual outline for developing California’s new Master Plan for Aging.


With Governor Newsom’s Executive Order for a Master Plan for Aging, California can again lead the way for a more person-centered, efficient, effective system of care that spans across the public, private, and independent sectors. In its most successful form, this Master Plan for Aging will establish a framework for engaging new partners and spurring innovation with accountability across all entities that will creatively and comprehensively address the needs of older Californians and their families, both for today and tomorrow.

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