The Senior Alliance of Sisters is convening a facilitated Community Conversation, including a free light supper, on April 25 at the Sisters-Camp Sherman Rural Fire District Community Hall at 301 S. Elm St.

The community will have an opportunity to learn about and weigh in on issues around the effort to make Sisters an age-friendly community (AFC). The dinner, sponsored by Ray's Food Place and Sisters Coffee Co., will be served from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., followed by group discussions beginning at 6 p.m.

Planning for the April 25 event began in early January 2018 with the establishment of work groups to conduct research and collect information on the three key elements of an AFC - built environment, service environment, and social environment.

The information collected by the work groups will be shared at the Community Conversation so that participants will have factual information in order to make informed decisions when prioritizing the senior issues and needs identified at the AFC town hall held last November. During that meeting, Dr. Margaret Neal of the Portland State University Institute on Aging shared how Portland, Oregon led the World Health Organization's (WHO) first age-friendly initiative in the United States.

At the November 2017 meeting, several groups identified what is already working for seniors in Sisters, what are current barriers to improvement, and what are suggestions for improvement and to bring change, focusing on the three key elements of an AFC. The breakout sessions on April 25 will prioritize issues for action, and will discuss short-, mid-, and long-term goals and action planning for each of the key elements.

The built environment group will look at issues regarding housing, transportation, and outdoor spaces and buildings. Community and health services and communication/information comprise the topics considered under the service environment. The social environment subcategories include employment and the economy, civic participation and volunteering, social participation, and respect and social inclusion.

Four main areas emerged across all three environments as needing to be addressed - isolation, transportation, housing, and healthcare. All four are intertwined and impact one another. To create an AFC, it is helpful to take a holistic approach, addressing a number of interrelated issues that impact all citizens, not only seniors. It will take the interest and commitment of people of all ages to move the AFC initiative forward, according to Robyn Holdman of Citizens4Community.

Several positive steps have already been taken toward creating a more age-friendly community. Two local Sisters residents, Toni Landis and Dixie Eckford, have been appointed to the Council on Aging of Central Oregon (COA) advisory council, the first representatives ever from Sisters.

Since the Alliance began meeting, Landis said their overall goal has broadened to encompass all adults, regardless of age.

"Everyone is an aging adult," she said, "and what we do to improve transportation, emergency care, and an accessible environment for seniors will benefit moms with strollers, students needing flexible transportation, and anyone needing local emergency care. That is what makes a community age-friendly; it's good for everyone."

COA has funded Landis as an information and resource specialist in Sisters every Monday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to work with aging adults 60 and older needing assistance, information, and access to a variety of services. Landis offers her services in the Sisters Park & Recreation District (SPRD) Sage Room, which hosts senior activities weekdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"My position is a direct result of efforts of the Sisters Senior Alliance to examine the needs and concerns of local seniors," Landis said.

People are asked to RSVP for the free April 25 community dinner to ensure there is sufficient food for the event. Additional information about the Community Conversation is available on the C4C website at www.citizens4community.com or by calling 541-549-1482.