Central Oregon is no stranger to growth. 

Since the Council on Aging of Central Oregon’s founding almost 50 years ago, Central Oregon has experienced a 428% population increase and undergone significant demographic shifts. This rapid growth has created a dynamic and evolving community, but also poses challenges and opportunities for our organization to address the needs of residents.

The Council on Aging's impact in fiscal year 2023

We know that the demand for our services will grow significantly in the upcoming years. Overall, the tri-county population is expected to rise 40% by 2047 and those who are 60+ will increase by 54%. By that time, there will be over 40,000 more older adults to serve. It is vital that we take this population growth into account when planning future strategies for our organization.

Bend, in particular, has become the second most popular destination in the U.S. for Generation X to retire. Generation X (born 1965-1980) are on the cusp of eligibility for our services, and many are having to financially support multiple generations. 48% of adults are providing some sort of financial assistance to their grown children, and 25% are financially supporting their parents as well. This puts a strain on their ability to save for their own retirement, which could lead to higher dependence on our services.

We are also addressing cultural and linguistic diversity within the aging population in Central Oregon to ensure inclusivity and effectiveness in our services. The Latino population aged 65+ is projected to rise from 9% to 21% of all older Americans by 2060. In Central Oregon, the Latino population grew 528% between 1990-2018, and growth is expected to continue. We took great strides this year in implementing services for Spanish-speaking individuals by hiring a bilingual case manager and laying the foundation for our culturally appropriate nutrition program. Our plans for the future are driven by population growth, aging dynamics, and increasing cultural diversity. As the demographic landscape of Central Oregon shifts, strategic planning and resource allocation are crucial to adapt our services to meet the evolving needs of the community and serve older adults in their journey towards aging with dignity and independence.

Growing Our Organization

The growth in Central Oregon is reflected in recent updates to the organizational structure of the Council on Aging as we build capacity to take on new clients and increase the robustness of our programs. In May 2023, Cassie Regimbal stepped into the role of Executive Director after the retirement of Susan Rotella. After eight years at the organization, Cassie is no stranger to the challenges and opportunities facing the older adult communities in Central Oregon.

“I’ve worn many hats at CoA – I started as an intern and am now leading the organization as Executive Director. If there’s one thing that has been true throughout my time here, it’s that there is always something new and changing at the organization. No two stories of our clients are alike, and we have to always be prepared to adapt and grow as new challenges arise in our community.”

– Cassie Regimbal, Executive Director

In 2023, we added new positions including an Assistant Marketing Manager, a Bilingual Case Manager, and a Development Manager. We also restructured responsibilities in our Nutrition Department to ensure that thousands of meals are delivered and served weekly through the Meals on Wheels and Community Dining programs. We would like to thank the entire team for their commitment to keeping seniors safe, fed, and connected.

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Our staff impact: 31 employees in 2023

A Team Effort

In FY 2023, the team of 477 volunteers across managed and contracted sites donated 32,309 hours doing everything from delivering meals to taking pets to the veterinarian to creating birthday cards. We had 181 new individuals join the team, and we’re thrilled to see such growth in that department.

Putting Down Roots with Partners

Over the past year, we made a concerted effort to develop partnerships across the tri-county. Partnering with other nonprofits, government entities, companies, and individuals not only brought unlikely members of the community together but also helped us provide additional resources and support to our clients.

A Network Across the Tri-County

We contract with the La Pine Activity Center, the Jefferson County Senior Center, Prineville Senior Center Charitable Trust, and the Redmond Senior Center to provide community dining and Meals on Wheels across the tri-county. These partnerships are critical to keeping older adults in Central Oregon fed, safe, and connected. These centers have dedicated teams of staff, volunteers, and board members who ensure that there is a welcoming space for all seniors across the region to eat a meal, receive services, and enjoy time together.

Locally Grown Partnerships

Partnerships with local agriculture organizations sprouted this year. Seed to Table, a nonprofit in Sisters that provides equitable access to locally grown produce, donated in-season vegetables to enrich meals offered through our Community Dining programs. We also worked with High Desert Food and Farm Alliance to prepare and distribute weekly fresh harvest kits to Meals on Wheels clients in Sisters. We are planning on expanding the program to other sites this summer.

“It’s been a real help to me. I really do appreciate it. Such a nice variety, and it really helps fill in the gap.”

– Lorena, Fresh Harvest Kit Recipient

Finding Fixes

Friend to Friend is an organization founded and run by Jo Ann Dewey. She works directly with organizations like the Council on Aging to offer grants to older adults when unexpected expenses of aging arise. Friend to Friend has supported nine clients in the last year with much-needed home repairs.

Marilyn, a Meals on Wheels client, is legally blind in both eyes. She wasn’t safely able to navigate her front porch independently due to the unprotected drop off. Our Case Manager, Brony Hruska, connected her with Friend to Friend, and they installed a railing around the perimeter of the front porch.

“The railing gives me a lot more confidence to go out to water and enjoy my flowers independently. It’s also helped me safely navigate the snow and ice.”

– Marilyn, Home Repair Grant Recipient

A Pawsitive Impact

Our Pet Pals program runs on partnerships, which have flourished in 2023. We were able to provide pet food, supplies, and veterinary care to 97 Meals on Wheels clients and their 145 pets in Bend, La Pine, and Sisters thanks to support from FIXBend, Wickiup Animal Hospital, Meals on Wheels America, Mini Pet Mart, and Mud Bay. We invest in the relationships between a pet and its owner because they are critical to an older adult remaining socially engaged and physically active.

Our impact at FIXBend

“I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to FIXBend and the Pet Pals wellness clinics. They are here for me, you, and all our fur babies. I appreciate all you have done for us!”

– Rachel, Pet Pals Client

Our Pet Pals impact: 97 clients with 145 pets

Cultivating Connections

This year, the U.S. Surgeon General declared an epidemic of loneliness and isolation, something that we’ve seen surge during and after the pandemic. We design many of our core programs around creating engagement opportunities and fostering relationships between clients, staff, and volunteers.

Caring Connections

Our Caring Connections program matches a volunteer with an older adult for weekly phone calls or in-person visits. This program helps combat the negative effects of social isolation and is an opportunity for older adults to make meaningful connections with others. We have started to incorporate in-person social events to the program, the first of which was our Caring Connections Happy Hour on November 9, 2023. This heartwarming event brought together our matches, some of whom had never met in person and had only talked on the phone.

Our Caring Connections impact: 54 matches called 1,325 times.

Quinn, a Caring Connections volunteer in his mid-80s, was recently matched with Bob who is also in his 80s. Quinn and Bob spent three months getting to know one another over the phone, connecting over growing up on farms and a shared interest in motorcycles.

Soon, Quinn began to offer additional support to Bob, taking him to medical appointments, errands, and out to coffee and lunch. After several outings, they have been to each other’s houses for dinner and to meet their families. They even celebrated the holidays together.

“We are like family now.”

– Bob, Caring Connections Participant

Community Dining

Community Dining provides no-cost hot meals and opportunities to socialize for adults 60 and over at six tri-county senior dining sites – La Pine, Madras, Prineville, Redmond, Sisters, and Bend. Programs, activities, and information about health, resources, and nutrition often accompany the meal.

Betty has been a long-time neighbor of the Senior Services Center in Bend. After the death of her husband, she leaned into her passion for baking and now regularly brings delicious cakes to feed the volunteers and staff. Chef Isaac Mastie has even incorporated her recipes into the dining room menus. She has also become a fixture at community dining, bouncing between tables to talk with her friends.

“Everybody was so welcoming because they knew I’d been going through the grieving process.”

– Betty, Community Diner

Our community dining impact: 38,931 community lunches served

Family Caregiving

In order to ensure that all Central Oregonians age well wherever and however they choose, we also provide support for caregivers. This includes information about and access to services and resources, individual counseling and support groups, and respite grants to unpaid family caregivers.

For nine years, Mo has been caring for her husband, who has late-stage Alzheimer’s. She became exhausted and overwhelmed from everything that goes into being a full-time caregiver. She hit a brick wall until her friend told her about our respite grants. We offer $500-$1000 grants to unpaid family caregivers that allow them to hire someone to take care of their loved one while they take a break.

“We were able to use that money to stretch our budget and continue to provide his care in the home. My son is helping provide care, and now I have support to get away and play cards with friends. I am beyond blessed to have the help from my son now. Any help is amazing.”

– Mo, Respite Grant Recipient

Our respite support impact: 657 hours paid for by CoA

Branching Out

En Español

As we work on creating an inclusive environment for all Central Oregonians, we strengthened our commitment to grow services for the Spanish-speaking community. In June, we hired our first Bilingual Case Manager. He is focusing on creating new outreach platforms, onboarding Spanish-speaking clients, and working with the nutrition team to create a culturally responsive food program. His addition to our team means that Spanish speakers now have easier access to information, referral services, and resources for older adults and their loved ones. We have also translated our marketing materials and menus into Spanish to make our programs more accessible.

Our impact on the Spanish-speaking community - marketing materials in Spanish

Our Caring Connections social engagement program received a $200,000 grant from the Community Care Corps in October 2023. With this funding, we are growing the program to better support clients who speak Spanish, who live in more rural communities, or those with dementia or other disabilities. We have engaged Dr. Claudia Bisso-Fetzer as our researcher to analyze the impact of our program and to run focus groups so we can better understand the needs of Spanish speaking older adults as it relates to loneliness and isolation. 

You can read more about our Service Equity Plan at www.CouncilOnAging.org/ServiceEquityPlan

Sprouting Up Throughout the Community

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