The Council on Aging’s ability to safely provide meals, connections, and support, has never been as needed.

Bend, Ore., May 26, 2021 – The Council on Aging of Central Oregon (CoA) announced today that U.S. Senator Merkley presented the agency with a U.S. flag that has flown over the Capitol in Washington, D.C, in recognition of its outstanding service to at-risk seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Older adults are bearing the worst impact of this pandemic. Yet, our ability to safely provide meals, along with a personal connection and support, has never been more needed,” states Susan Rotella, executive director of the Council on Aging. “We’re incredibly humbled and grateful for this recognition, and I want to thank our hard-working Council on Aging staff, tireless volunteers, and generous donors, who have helped us keep our most vulnerable seniors safe, fed, and connected during these challenging times.”

The Council on Aging rapidly responded when pandemic lockdowns and restrictions began in March 2020. Here are a few examples of our accomplishments:

  • With dining rooms closed, community lunches in Bend, Sisters, LaPine, and Madras pivoted from in-person gatherings to a Grab-N-Go format, offered three times a week. In Redmond and Prineville, volunteers shifted to delivering lunches directly to clients’ homes. Often just seeing friends, and having the opportunity to chat while picking up a bagged lunch, is a bright spot in their day.
  • Pantry items and pet food were made available to reduce the need for extra shopping.
  • Caring Connections, a program that offers seniors a chance to chat weekly with a Council on Aging volunteer, was launched in November. The ability to reach out to many clients who feel isolated during the pandemic is lifting spirits, providing reassurance and camaraderie. 
  • Thanks to local partnerships, the Council on Aging provided culturally-specific support for local Latino/x and indigenous populations.

“The Council on Aging team rallied quickly in the face of unprecedented adversity to work tirelessly with seniors and their families who were heavily impacted by COVID-19 stay-at-home orders—providing supplies, preparing extra meals, and connecting with those who were isolated,” said Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley. “Last year’s numbers are impressive: over 90,000 Meals on Wheels meals delivered, over 44,000 community dining meals served, and over 13,000 phone calls answered to support seniors. This flag that has been flown over the U.S. Capitol symbolizes our appreciation for your outstanding efforts. Thank you.”

For updates and news about services and resources for older adults in Central Oregon, call (541) 678-5483, visit the Council on Aging website at or follow the Council on Aging’s Facebook page at


About the Council on Aging of Central Oregon

Since 1975, the Council on Aging has served as the designated Area Agency on Aging for Deschutes, Crook, and Jefferson counties, offering adults aged 60 and older and their loved ones a range of support services. As a non-profit organization, the Council on Aging advocates for, empowers, and guides older adults and their loved ones to live with independence and well-being in age-friendly communities — places where infrastructure, policies, and practices are developed to make the community liveable, accessible, and responsive to the needs of people of all ages, especially older adults.

Phone: (541) 678-5483

Media Contact
Denise LaBuda
Director of Communications
Council on Aging of Central Oregon
(541) 678-5483