How Portland Got PPE to Its Most Vulnerable

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. 

The Challenge 

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.   

The Response 

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 collaborationssuch 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. 

Response Partners 

Age-Friendly Portland and Multnomah County 

Portland Aging and Disability Community Project 

City of Portland 

Multnomah County 

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)