The Board of County Commissioners proclaimed May 2020 as “Older Americans Month” on Thursday, May 21. The annual event recognizes the strength and resilience of older adults and encourages people in Multnomah County to celebrate older adults in their community.
Multnomah County is recognizing Older Americans Month while COVID-19 causes unprecedented public health and economic challenges across the globe. The threat of COVID-19 has hit older communities especially hard, forcing older adults to limit physical contact with loved ones and to take extreme caution during daily activities.
This year’s theme, “Make Your Mark,” celebrates the ways in which older adults positively affect people in their communities. People in Multnomah County are urged to plan safe celebrations via telephone, letter or virtual meeting to acknowledge older adults who are “making their mark” on those around them.
“I’ve heard stories during this crisis of so many people stepping up to help their elders in their homes. This is especially important, as we know isolation and loneliness are serious concerns for people who are older,” said Commissioner Sharon Meieran, the proclamation’s sponsor. “Today I am so excited that we are recognizing this contribution.”
In the midst of the pandemic, Multnomah County and its community-based partners have responded to the unprecedented need for services by serving thousands of meals to older adults through a no-contact home-delivery approach, organizing video social and support group meetings for LGBTQ elders, making hundreds of friendly check-in phone calls from staff and peers, and learning new video platforms to offer virtual enrichment activities or convening of long-standing groups.
“In keeping with the theme of making your mark through connection, I want to commend our network, commend our partners for the work they have done to maintain the connections with the participants,” said Robyn Johnson, planning and development specialist for the County’s Aging, Disability and Veterans Services Division. “It really is their generosity and their dedication that I admire. Partner organizations, their staff, community members, and volunteers have spent countless hours returning messages and making reassurance calls.”
For Commissioner Lori Stegmann, the event was a reminder of the role grandparents play, in both her and her daughter’s lives.
Commissioner Stegmann urged everyone to continue checking in with older adults in their lives who may feel isolated during the pandemic. “We know that people are just completely devastated and isolated,” she said, “and it’s reassuring to know the County is doing their part to make sure the connections are not lost.”
Commissioner Susheela Jayapal’s mother is a counselor in India. As the board issued the declaration, Commissioner Jayapal acknowledged her mother for her strength and resilience during times of uncertainty.
“She is at home, you know, in their apartment, and can’t get out, but she continues to talk to clients, and so when I think about resilience and adaptability and connection, we think of our older adults as vulnerable, and they are in the medical sense,” Commissioner Jayapal said, “but their resilience and strength and wisdom, it is such an asset and treasure, and it continues.”