Website connects seniors to services

Clearinghouse of resources the result of a volunteer project

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

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A website and help line that provide a one-stop shop of Clark County senior-related services went live Tuesday.

MyEncoreYears.org, developed by Leadership Clark County and backed by five other organizations, is a clearinghouse of local resources, from assisted living options to dog walking services, for residents 50 and older. The site also offers a toll-free help line, 888-637-6060, through the Southwest Washington Agency on Aging and Disability.

The remote resource center is the result of a volunteer project by Leadership Clark County and input and assistance from local seniors and the Clark County Aging Readiness Task Force.

“The intent of the website was just to be a portal,” said John Vanderkin, a local business owner who served on Leadership Clark County’s 2011 Changing Demographics Project team. “It allows people to go to the website and not be overwhelmed. It’ll take them to most resources they need. If they can’t get it on the website, one phone call to SWAAD will help direct them, as well.”

The clearinghouse was identified as a community need during a Feb. 16 roundtable meeting between the six-member Changing Demographics Project team and local seniors and task force members who already had been doing research on ways to better serve the county’s growing aging community. By 2025, one-fourth of Clark County residents are projected to be age 60 or older, according to the Washington Office of Financial Management.

“We have so many organizations with elder services,” said Clark County Commissioner Marc Boldt, who initiated the aging task force. “Nobody ever put them together before this.”

The county task force was appointed about a year ago to assess the county’s capacity to serve that demographic group in terms of housing, health care, transportation, support services and civic/social activities.

“One of the reoccurring themes was a lack of information on where to find stuff,” said Colete Anderson of Clark County Community Planning. “The information might exist, but people might not be able to find it. When you Googled it, it was not coming up.”

Clark County, Southwest Washington Agency on Aging and Disability, 211 Info, United Way of Columbia-Willamette and Human Services Council partnered with Leadership Clark County to create the website through financial and in-kind contributions. Those five organizations are major resource centers for residents 50 and older.

As part of outreach for the new clearinghouse, Leadership Clark County will distribute about 42,000 refrigerator magnets and 5,000 rack cards to county libraries, community centers, emergency service agencies, hospitals and other community gathering places.

Leadership Clark County was established in 1993 to promote community involvement through a nine-month program of classes and volunteer projects.

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551 or paris.achen@columbian.com