July 26, 2016

Nearly 500 people from across Multnomah County turned out over two months to share their thoughts on how to improve the lives of the community’s older adults.

ADVSD receiving public input on how best to care for older community membersListening sessions, organized by the Department of County Human Services’ Aging, Disability and Veterans Services Division, offered participants an opportunity to provide input on a number of topics, including nutrition services, abuse prevention and behavioral health. The feedback is being used to help the division develop its 2017-2020 Area Plan. The Area Plan, a requirement of all Area Agencies on Aging, describes how the division will provide a comprehensive and coordinated delivery system to older adults in Multnomah County.

During the listening sessions, attendees were asked what issues were important to them, what was working well and what areas needed more focus.

The nearly 20 sessions, many of which were offered with interpretation and took place at locations across the county, stretched from mid-April through June and drew 474 people and 2,348 comments. Some 68 percent of attendees were non-English speakers and 89 percent were from non-mainstream groups including the LGBT community.

“I think the highlight for me was when a 60-year-old man said that he was still processing the fact that he wasn't alone. He is an HIV positive long-term survivor and had no idea there were so many other people like him in our community.” said Rebecca Miller, a program specialist in ADVSD. “It was life-changing for him to connect to other people who shared that experience of loss and fear and hate. I hope we can help all these isolated people in our area find a community to connect with.”

The sessions generated other takeaways.

For instance, transportation was the overall leading concern of meeting attendees, with participants both praising the county’s existing efforts and calling for expanded transportation services. Among members of the LGBT community specifically, behavioral health emerged as the key issue. The ADVSD staff is working to segment the data and distinguish the needs of various groups of older adults to help with  planning programs.

ADVSD staff is now also working with advisory council members to integrate the community feedback and other insights drawn from the listening sessions into the 2017-2020 Area Plan. That information will be available to the public in the coming months.

Two public hearings on the plan are scheduled for August 23 and 24 before it is submitted to the state in October.

The hearings are scheduled as follows:

  • August 23, 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., Multnomah County Board Room, 501 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Portland

  • August 24, 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., Multnomah County East Building, Sharon Kelley Room, 600 NE 8th St., Gresham