Aging isn’t something that people talk about much. The Malheur Community Conversations on Aging sponsored by Age+ and Malheur County leaders hope to change that.
On Saturday, Aug. 20, from 1 to 4 p.m., the community coalition invites people of all ages for facilitated discussions about the challenges of aging themselves and for their loved ones.
Those interested in joining the conversation can register by calling 541-889-7651 or going to www.ageplus.org/register.
“If we’re lucky we’re talking about all of our futures,” said Julia Brown, Age+ community outreach and engagement manager. “We run away and avoid talking about aging. I’m here to tell you there’s so much to look forward to with aging.
“It’s crucial to break down the barriers we’ve built in society.”
The community conversation will take place simultaneously at four locations.
The central location will be Four Rivers Cultural Center in Ontario, with additional conversations taking place at Nyssa Senior Center, Vale Senior & Community Center, and Jordan Valley Lions & Community Center.
After surveying Malheur County seniors, Age+ determined that it was the best option to host these discussions close to home, where seniors already are.
“It’s important to get people talking,” said Brown. Malheur County has approximately 5,273 seniors and, according to Census Bureau data, has nearly as many people over the age of 65 as under the age of 18.
Within a few years, the Baby Boomer generation could make up a significant portion of the community.
“We’re not really ready for that,” said Brown.
By partnering with Euvalcree and the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, a session in Spanish will be held at Four River Cultural Center in Ontario from 5 p.m to 8 p.m. on Aug. 20 to make the discussions inclusive of an even larger population.
An important step in conducting the initial survey across the state was partnering with local organizations that already focused on community and aging.
In Malheur County, the Malheur Council on Aging and Community Services, Valley Family Health Care and the Oregon Department of Human Services partnered to make the discussions possible.
“There are a lot of partners across the public and private sector to make sure this project is successful on the day of the event and has the intended impact after,” said Jane Padgett from the Oregon Department of Human Services.
After the facilitated discussion events, Age+ and their community partners will work toward solutions both locally and statewide.
Solutions won’t be “one size fits all” and will include many different perspectives and experiences of aging. This can include seniors raising grandchildren while supporting their own elderly parents, or the difficulties of isolation for many seniors living in rural parts of Oregon.
“We want the plan developed in a grassroots way,” said Brown. By sharing “what already exists and what people love and rely on in their communities, this isn’t just about what’s missing but focusing on what’s working great.”
Other partners in the project include Eastern Oregon Center for Independent Living, Four Rivers Healthy Community, Malheur County Equity Stewards, Malheur County Health Department, Northwest Housing Alternatives, Oregon Food Bank and Origins Faith Community Outreach.