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AARP AARP States Oregon Livable Communities

Grants Focus on Safety, Livability

Senior Selfie

Wiring buried under the floor of the rebuilt Vida McKenzie Community Center uses a magnetic field to transmit audio to the tiny coil inside most hearing aids. The technology may be complicated, but to visitors with telecoil-equipped hearing aids, it provides a direct connection to sound at public meetings, bingo gatherings and concerts.

“It’s as if someone’s talking right into your ear — just to you,” says Gerry Aster, vice president of the center’s board of directors. “It’ll be absolutely pristine sound quality, no distortion, no ambient sound.”

A $10,045 AARP Community Challenge grant — one of six awarded in Oregon this year — paid for the wiring along with updated audiovisual equipment, including an 85-inch screen for streaming movies and classes.

The center in Oregon’s McKenzie River Valley east of Eugene features technology unheard of when the original center—destroyed by 2020’s Holiday Farm Fire—opened in 1950.

“It makes so many things possible,” says Aster, 75.

Community Challenge grants, part of the nationwide AARP Livable Communities initiative, support projects that improve the quality of life for people of all ages, with an emphasis on the needs of adults 50 and older. Priorities include improving public spaces, digital connections, equity, transportation and housing.

Oregon’s 2023 grants total more than $65,000 and are all quick-action projects meant to jump-start long-term changes, says Bandana Shrestha, AARP Oregon state director. They must be completed by Nov. 30.

Keeping safe in disasters

Other Oregon grants support emergency preparedness and disaster recovery. Recent wildfires, heat waves and other emergencies have had a disproportionate effect on vulnerable people, including older adults and people with disabilities, Shrestha says.

The nonprofit Douglas Public Health Network will use $12,500 to make 500 emergency preparedness kits including NOAA Weather Radios. Outreach to residents in Douglas County in southwest Oregon will include independent living facilities and senior centers.

The East Portland Resilience Coalition/ROSE Community Development will use a $15,475 grant to support Live Well Café pop-up events in the East Portland neighborhoods of Centennial and Parkrose. They will bring together older adults, people with disabilities and other residents to build connections they can tap during emergencies.

Among other grants:

  • Kindness Farm in Portland will use its $2,500 microgrant to build a covered pavilion for educational and social events. The nonprofit urban farm grows and donates healthy food. “One of the most beautiful and amazing things about the farm is having been able to see people from all different cultures and backgrounds and ages come and work together,” says Lou Lé, its founder and executive director.

  • The City of Chiloquin in southern Oregon received $14,540 to transform a gravel lot into a park with nonslip concrete surfaces, accessible seating and other features compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

  • Portland-based housing nonprofit REACH Community Development is using $10,000 to provide free safety modifications for lower-income older adults and homeowners with disabilities.

For more details on the $3.6 million in grants AARP awarded nationwide, see

Sarah Hollander is a writer living in Cleveland.

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