Over 650,000 people reside in the city of Portland, Oregon which makes up the vast majority of the 900,00 people who reside in Multnomah County, home to about 800,000 people.
In 2012, Portland was among a handful of US cities to participate in a global predecessor to the U.S.-based AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities. The county joined the AARP network in 2014. The region’s age-friendly effort is referred to as the Age-Friendly Portland and Multnomah County.
To make sure there were no gaps in services for older adults in Multonomah County, city and county officials began working together in mid-March to find out where additional community-based responses were needed, explain Alan DeLaTorre and Erin Grahek, who help lead the work of the Portland Emergency Coordination Center‘s new Aging and Disability Community Project.
DeLaTorre is Program Manager, City of Portland Age-Friendly Cities and Grahek is Community Services Program Manager, Multnomah County Aging, Disability, Veterans Services Division. The effort prioritized four areas of focus: caregiver support, food access, accessible information, and social connections.
To help protect the health of residents and caregivers, the city and county launched the Joint Volunteer Information Center, and created a project to obtain, package, and deliver personal protective equipment (PPE) free of charge for caregivers, people with disabilities and people who are immunocompromised.
The Portland Fire & Rescue Department’s Meds on Wheels program began arranging for the delivery of life-saving medications needed by older residents and people with disabilities who have no other means of obtaining their medicines.
Food access has also been a high priority. The city and county have emphasized supporting organizations that deliver meals to older adults and people with disabilities, as well as those that offer access to fresh fruits and vegetables in prepared food boxes. In some cases, the Aging and Disability Project provides underserved residents who do not currently receive any type of food assistance cash to purchase groceries.
The city and county are working jointly to launch a COVID-19 Aging and Disability webpage. Until then, there’s a COVID-19 page on the Age-Friendly Portland and Multnomah County website that links to local resources and other hubs of information, including AARP Oregon.
To address social isolation, Age-Friendly Portland and Multnomah County are pursuing collaborations—such as amplifying the AARP Community Connections platform and working with local school districts, neighborhood associations, and a local chapter of the Village to Village Network.
The Results, Thus Far
“Hundreds of individualized PPE packets and cleaning supplies have been hand-delivered by volunteers and mail deliveries have begun,” DeLaTorre and Grahek report. “With efforts to get informational flyers in multiple languages, we’ve been able to serve individuals from a variety of backgrounds.”
Age-Friendly Portland and Multnomah County
Portland Aging and Disability Community Project
City of Portland
Portland Fire & Rescue
City-County Joint Volunteer Information Center
This story is being shared as part of the AARP-NLC COVID-19 Older Adult Response Initiative.
Reporting, writing and editing by AARP (Shoshana Preuss, Melissa Stanton, Jay Walljasper, Mike Watson)