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‘We’re thankful for our health’: Council on Aging holds first Thanksgiving meal at renovated Bend facility

(Update: Adding video, comments from CoA Exec. Director, seniors)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Thanksgiving got off to an early, very thankful start for some seniors in Bend, with an extra reason to celebrate. After being closed for a few years, a community gathering spot reopened. 

Those connections were renewed Wednesday as the Council on Aging of Central Oregon served a free meal to seniors. The services at the refurbished building will extend well beyond the holiday. 

Council on Aging Executive Director Susan Rotella said, "We're just so excited to have this building back as a wonderful resource for our community seniors, and also to be able to open it today for our first Thanksgiving dinner. We're happy to give thanks for the fact we have this wonderful building again." 

 The former Bend Community Center underwent four years of renovations. It's now a Services Center for the council, an independent nonprofit.  

"It's a very warm and we hope inviting place for seniors to come every day," Rotella said. "Hang out here, have services here and have a meal -- meet new friends and rekindle relationships with old friends." 

Richard and Helen Bortels had enjoyed the Bend Senior Center (now the Larkspur Community Center) for 15 years. Now, they're ready to enjoy the new facility. 

"Just cabin fever, to get us out of the house and meeting people," Richard Bortel said. "We've met so many nice people. and we've seen a lot of people come and go. It's kind of sad, but that's senior living." 

"We're thankful for our health, we're thankful for our friends," he added. "It's just so nice. I got my neighbor here today, and that's what we're thankful for."  

Bend resident Carol Kinney said, "I'm thankful for living in Bend -- my daughter lives here. I live with her, and it's good to have family around."

Lunch will be served at the center three days a week - it's free for those over 60. There are also services like Medicare counseling and support for caregivers.

"It's an honor and a privilege for the staff and for myself to welcome back all of the seniors that helped to build Bend and the surrounding areas," Rotella said. "Whether it be ODOT workers, millworkers, school teachers, we are just so happy to provide this wonderful resource for them." 

Renovations included electrical work, plumbing, and the whole inside was transformed to include a living room setup. The center will be open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays (after this week). 

Here is the earlier press release:

The Council on Aging of Central Oregon has resumed in-person senior community dining in Bend, starting with a Thanksgiving meal Wednesday at its newly renovated Fifth Street facility.

After four years of renovations to the former Bend Community Center, lunch will now be served in the dining hall of the new CoA Senior Services Center at 1036 NE Fifth Street in Bend. All people 60 and over are invited to enjoy meals every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, with the exception of Thursday and Friday of Thanksgiving week (Nov. 24-25). 

The new Senior Services Center is designed to be a resource for all Central Oregon seniors, featuring an information and referral hub, large dining hall, community room, social areas, production kitchen, and administrative offices. The center will open with limited hours of operation from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, until early 2023, when the building will begin to operate five days a week, with full business hours.

Community dining is a key part of CoA’s mission to keep seniors fed, safe and connected. This program, which is partially funded by the federal Older Americans Act, transitioned to a Grab-N-Go model in the beginning of the pandemic and is now moving back in-person, to provide social opportunities to combat isolation and loneliness. Community dining also provides a venue for nutrition education and access to other aging services and information to nourish the whole person.

In the last 12 months, CoA served over 10,661 Grab-N-Go meals in Bend. In addition, CoA funded 43,862 meals to Central Oregon seniors through its partnerships with the Redmond Senior Center, La Pine Activity Center, Sisters Community Church, Jefferson County Senior Center, and Prineville Senior Center.

CoA’s Executive Director Susan Rotella notes, “Community dining is core to our mission to reduce hunger, isolation, and loneliness in the Central Oregon senior community. The Council on Aging of Central Oregon evolved rapidly to meet the changing needs of our vulnerable community throughout the pandemic, and we are thrilled to be able to bring seniors back together for the holiday season and beyond. We look forward to opening the doors of our new Senior Services Center to be a gathering space and resource hub for older populations throughout Central Oregon.”

During the past four years, CoA acquired the old Bend Community Center and undertook a complete renovation of the facility. Funding for the $2.25 million renovation was provided with significant community support from organizations including the JTMF Foundation, St. Charles Health System, the City of Bend, Deschutes County, Oregon Community Foundation, Bend Foundation, The Healy Foundation, HEDCO Foundation, Maybelle Clark Macdonald Fund, Autzen Foundation and OnPoint Community Credit Union.

In addition, there were many generous individual donations, including a bequest of $250,000 from the Elmer F. Kruse Revocable Trust, and a $250,000 investment from the Oregon State Legislature’s biennial ‘Christmas Tree Fund.’

In-person Community Dining Information

  • Location: Council on Aging of Central Oregon’s Senior Services Center, 1036 NE 5th Street, Bend OR, 97701
  • Cost: Donations are suggested but not required for people 60 and over. Lunch is $5 per person for guests under 60.
  • Menu changes daily
  • Time and Dates: Wednesday - Friday, 11am - 1pm starting Wednesday, November 23rd. CoA will be closed on Thursday and Friday, November 24 and 25
    • Thanksgiving Celebration: Wednesday, November 23rd, 11am-1pm
    • Menu: Classic Thanksgiving menu         
    • Schedule:
      • 11am – Doors open
      • 11:45am – Introductions
      • 12:00pm – Lunch and performance by Bill Sterling & Steven Remington (guitar and mandolin duo)
      • 12:30pm – James Weigelt Magic (magic show)

Social Isolation and Loneliness Facts

(The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2020)

  • It has been reported that more than one-third of adults aged 45 and older feel lonely, and nearly one-fourth of adults aged 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated.
  • Social isolation significantly increases a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.
  • Social isolation is associated with about a 50% percent increased risk of dementia.
  • Poor social relationships (characterized by social isolation or loneliness) is associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.

About the Council on Aging of Central Oregon

Since 1975, the Council on Aging of Central Oregon (CoA) 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. CoA advocates for, empowers, and guides older adults and their loved ones to live with independence and well-being.

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