Web Site Has Data for Oregon Seniors, Disabled

Oct 27, 2005
Salem Statesman Journal

A new Web site will enable older and disabled people and their advocates in Oregon to obtain quick access to information and services.

The site, unveiled by Gov. Ted Kulongoski and others Wednesday, will allow them to find services and assistive devices, educate themselves, manage records and communicate with elected officials.

"Most people with physical disabilities are computer-literate, so this will be valuable to them," said Ruth McEwen of Salem, an advocate for people with disabilities. "It will help them get a better understanding of their condition, how to live with that condition and what services are available."

McEwen sits on the Physical Disabilities Advisory Council for the Department of Human Services. She also is the co-chairwoman of the Advocacy Coalition for Seniors and People with Disabilities.

Oregon is the first state with a statewide Web site for seniors and people with disabilities. The site is based on a county pilot project in California.

"Don't let anybody tell you that seniors and people with disabilities are not on the Internet," said Bruce Bronzan, a former California state legislator and the president of Trilogy Integrated Resources of San Rafael, Calif., which developed the site and maintains it. "They are on it big time."

The site offers a directory of service providers, links to agencies, a list of 21,000 assistive devices from 3,000 companies, easy-to-search libraries and information about specific diseases and disorders, pending legislation and daily news articles.

"It's like having a case manager in a box," said Kathleen Neill of Oak Grove, the chairwoman of the advisory council for the Clackamas County Area Agency on Aging. "It is a way that people can take control of their issues, and it is an educational tool for the whole family."

Money for the Web site came from state and federal sources under the 2005 law that updates Oregon Project Independence, which provides in-home services to enable older people to stay in their own homes. The law expands access to services to people with disabilities.

Kulongoski said he and his wife, Mary Oberst, learned about these issues while caring for her aging parents.

"My father-in-law used his mind to make the world better, but actually ended up leaving this world without his mind as a result of Alzheimer's disease," Kulongoski said.

"My wife went back East every six weeks to help her mother take care of him. This was an experience in itself because my mother-in-law refused at first to hire in-home health-care services because she felt it was her responsibility to take care of her husband. But she was in her 80s and was frail."

After Paul Oberst died in early 2002, while Kulongoski was running for governor, the Kulongoskis moved Elizabeth Durfee Oberst from Kentucky to Salem to be closer to two of her children. She died on March 30 of this year.

"As Oregon's population ages, and our older citizens live longer, more citizens and their families will be faced with choices about where to live and what kind of assistance they need to maintain their health and independence for as long as possible," Kulongoski said.

"The goal of this project is simple: Help Oregonians age with dignity."

pwong@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6745