Ann Adrian is hoping to gather compassionate and concerned citizens next week for a program designed to help Lake Oswego's at-risk residents stay safe and living in their own homes.
"When we take care of our most vulnerable citizens, we take care of everyone better," the Adult Community Center manager says. "It strengthens us as a community."
To make that happen, Adrian has scheduled a training session from 10-11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 1, for the ACC's Gatekeeper Program, which teaches community members to look for red flags that indicate a senior or a person with disabilities might be struggling.
"It's actually a program started in the late 1990s in Washington, around the Seattle area. It was designed to help people who wouldn't typically refer themselves to an organization or agency," Adrian says. "It might be because of something that might happen that could make them lose their independence, or because they had a negative experience. Whatever the reason may be, they're reluctant to come to a place like the ACC to get assistance."
Adrian says that years ago, the program courted meter readers and newspaper deliverers as members of the Gatekeeper Program because their routes often put them in contact with the same people on a week-by-week basis. They'd notice if the yard wasn't up to snuff, if the person inside wasn't coming out as much, or if they were disheveled and not taking care of themselves.
"Primarily, it's looking to be a good neighbor to folks who might not otherwise have caring folks around them," Adrian says.
Adrian hopes to cast a wide net for people who might serve as good Gatekeepers throughout Lake Oswego, from bank tellers and store clerks to members of local neighborhood associations and community organizations. The greater the variety of people who join the group and receive the training, the more well cared for the community will be, she says.
"We're looking for anyone whose job or position puts them in contact with older adults who might not (be vocal about) needing assistance," Adrian says. "We train them to see the red flags of someone not doing so well, and they can then refer that person to a worker with Clackamas County Social Services who will go out and make a safety check and try to engage that person."
Social workers can connect vulnerable residents to medical care, money management or transportation assistance, Adrian says.
"They let them know they might be able to get some help through Meals on Wheels or a recreation center," she adds, "or anything that might help improve their quality of life for them to stay active and independent in their own home."
Adrian says she knew the Gatekeeper Program was a good fit for Lake Oswego because of how engaged the community's residents are. That's important for the program to function properly and help those who need it most, she says.
"There are pockets of poverty and need in Lake Oswego and they need outreach," Adrian says. "We aren't always going to see it, but maybe these people out in the community will."
Tuesday's training will be conducted by Clackamas County Social Services Supervisor Kati Tilton; it's free and open to the public. To reserve a spot, register by July 31 by calling the Adult Community Center at 503-635-3758. For more information, visit www.ci.oswego.or.us/acc/gatekeeper-program-training-0.