The 2020 Census is happening now. You can complete your questionnaire online, by phone, or by mail.

What is the Census?

The Census is a national survey conducted every 10 years to measure the population of the US. The United States government has undertaken the Census since 1790, shortly after President George Washington was sworn into office.

Why is the Census important?

The Census is the most practical way to get an accurate count of the national population. The information gathered is used to justify the funding of necessary services, including fire departments, infrastructure projects, health clinics, schools, and more. It is also used to determine the number of representatives in Congress. While every state has 2 senators, the House of Representatives is based on population: the more populated, the more representatives the state has. Currently, Oregon has 5 representatives in the House in Congress.

If the population of Oregon is large enough this year, a 6th representative will be added. This would give Oregon more influence in determining federal laws and regulations. As the senior demographic votes more than any other group of people, this would give you more control in elections on a national level.

To narrow our focus for a moment, the Census directly affects the visibility of the Council on Aging. As the senior population increases, so should our audience of seniors and volunteers. The number of people 65 and older in Oregon grew an average of 18% between 2010 and 2014, with Deschutes county increasing by a much larger 31%. The more seniors we have on record in the tri-county area, the more eyes we draw, and the more reach we have to assist our key demographic, you!

If we do not have an accurate count of the senior population, it could mean a decrease in the number of services we offer our beloved parents and grandparents. Since social programs are directly affected by the census results, everyone must answer it.

When does the Census take place?

It’s happening now! The Census officially started in late January in remote corners of Alaska. Still, most of us will have received something in the mail by now.

Between May and September, Census volunteers will be contacting people who have not responded to the mailers. These will likely be a combination of door-to-door canvassing and phone calls.

Due to the coronavirus spread across the US, we will likely see delays in the above schedule. There has not been a definitive change to the timeline yet, but the voluntary quarantine will probably affect the Census schedule. Joon Bang, the CEO of the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging, spoke to CNN about the delays he is seeing in Seattle.

“Because there’s so many unknowns and uncertainties, and the virus is posing some additional layers of challenges, whatever plans we were even thinking about implementing during the census period, that’s being challenged too.”

How will the Census people contact me?

There are three ways to fill out and complete the Census: Mail, Phone, or Online. People are free to choose which method they would like to complete the Census, there are no benefits of drawbacks to any of them. All of the questions will be the same regardless of how you answer them.

What do I need to do?

If you have received and responded to the Census already, then there is nothing left to do. Otherwise, please fill out the census form in the mail to the best of your ability. Some examples of 2020 Census questions are:

  • How many people live at your address?
  • How old are each of these people?
  • What gender are these people?
  • Is this dwelling owned or a rental?
  • How can we best contact you?

We at the Council on Aging understand that these questions may seem like invasions of privacy. However, the information you give to the Census Bureau is confidential and protected under US Privacy laws, particularly Title 13. In short, the law states:

  • All information gathered is kept private
  • No information shall be shared with individuals or businesses
  • Every person with access to the data is sworn to maintain confidentiality
  • Anyone violating these laws will face severe penalties of fines and federal jail time

As you can see, the government takes your privacy very seriously in regards to the Census. Also, be aware that a census worker will never ask about your Social Security Number, credit card, or other financial data. The mail form will look like the ones below. Be aware of similarly looking mail that is NOT the official Census 2020.

If you have not completed the Census by mail, a representative will call you on the phone to collect your information. This may be the one time that answering an unknown number is useful. If you do not have access to a phone, you can still respond by mail.

The last way the Census Bureau will contact you is by sending an employee to your address. These representatives should be professional, dressed appropriately, and be able to answer any questions you have. Please be sure to stay at least 6 feet away from them to avoid possible transmission of the coronavirus or any other illnesses.

If you live with a family member who is comfortable answering the questions on the phone, that’s fine too. The website is where they can fill in the information for you and the entire household.

Based on the publicly available data, seniors are the highest risk to contract and develop complications from the coronavirus. It is our deepest desire that all our constituents remain safe and healthy during this potentially uncomfortable time. Completing the Census on time is important, but not as vital as you staying secure and comfortable.

Stay Safe, friends.


  1. 1
    Kathleen Burke on April 14, 2020

    If any older adult wants to practice the online census before going live, is a FREE interactive tutorial, from Generations on Line, to help older adults gain confidence in filling out the 2020 Census online.
    The tutorial reviews all the Census questions and goes over each of the online skills needed to complete the Census forms (e.g. dropdown boxes, radio dials, how to type in a box, correct a typo and more) It can be used on a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone. It is a safe place for folks to practice BEFORE going to live Census site.
    PLEASE NOTE-No data is collected or stored on this website.
    Generations on Line, a national nonprofit, wants all seniors to be counted AND feel capable, confident and secure in filling out the 2020 Census online.
    Please feel free to share this information!

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