May is Older Americans Month, recognizing and honoring the contributions of older adults to our communities. Most Americans prefer to remain in their own homes and communities as long as possible, making this year's theme of "Age My Way" especially fitting.
There are many benefits to "aging our way." Independence, social engagement, positive relationships, a sense of purpose, setting and reaching goals — all contribute to ongoing physical and mental health.
Between 2010 and 2018, the number of Clackamas County residents age 60 years and older increased by 28,202 people, accounting for 80 percent of the county's overall population growth. Significant growth in the older adult population is forecast to continue through 2045.
Most older adults live in their own homes, either alone or with families and friends. Nearly 7 in 10 U.S. adults will need some type of long-term services and supports (LTSS) in their lifetime. We encourage Oregonians to take advantage of Older Americans Month and learn about the variety of LTSS available in your community.
Oregon emphasizes community-based LTSS, including housing, health care and social services for individuals who need assistance with meeting their basic needs and staying engaged in the community. These include such diverse programs as volunteer and employment opportunities, legal services, meals, transportation, information about health insurance and financial aid, support for family caregivers, in-home care services, adult foster care, assisted living, and nursing facilities. Find an overview of services available to Clackamas County residents by clicking here.
Planning for long-term services that might be wanted or needed later in life can be a challenge. It's difficult to know what to plan for. Will I be healthy? Will I need in-home care? When will I stop driving? How long will I live? Do I have enough money? Will my parent be safe and well cared for? These are challenging questions to face, and many people struggle to learn about available services when there is an immediate need.
Our hope is that Oregonians choose to "Age My Way" because they know what services are available and how to access them before a crisis arises. We ask community members to share information about these resources with neighbors, partners and constituents.
A good place to start is the Clackamas County Aging and Disability Resource Connection (ADRC), which streamlines access to information and resources about long-term supports and services in the community. We encourage county residents to call the ADRC at 503-650-5622 and speak with a certified Information and Referral Specialist.
Despite the availability of a network of aging services, challenges remain. Even as the COVID-19 pandemic has further underscored the importance of building community infrastructure and social connection, we hope that new, innovative and high-quality services will be developed by individuals and organizations who see the value in supporting older adults "to age their way" in the community as our population continues to age and become more diverse.
Paula Carder is a professor with the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health and director of PSU's Institute on Aging. Walter Dawson is an adjunct research associate with PSU's Institute on Aging and assistant professor in OHSU's Department of Neurology. Ozcan Tunalilar is an assistant professor with PSU's Institute on Aging and the Toulan School of Urban Studies & Planning.
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