Rural Arizona Communities, Like Parker, Getting Creative To Care For Older Arizonans

Published: Monday, March 30, 2020 - 4:38pm

Parker, Arizona, is a small town along the Colorado River. Many of Parker’s residents are over the age of 65, and some rely on the kindness of volunteers for things like food and personal care. And the organizations who support them are adapting to meet their needs during the coronavirus pandemic.

Darla Tilley is the director of the Parker Community Senior Center. She’s lived in Parker for 20 years.

"It's a great community. We all kind of pull together," she said.

The center provides meals for homebound seniors across La Paz County. And they’re still doing that, despite the pandemic.

"We go once a week and we take out well right now we're taking nine meals," she explained. "Nine frozen meals they get. And then we also take out milk and we take bread if we can get it."

But lately, they haven’t been able to get it — so, instead they got creative.

"We've actually made our own. We made rolls one day because we couldn't get bread and we sent that out to our clients so that they still had some bread," Tilley said.

Tilley said they’ve also been calling clients daily to check in on them. And she has been encouraging neighbors and churches to also check in, even if it’s just a wave from one porch to another. 

Another challenge facing this community is distance.

Gina Whittington is the deputy director of the Western Arizona Council of Governments, which serves older adults who live in Yuma, La Paz and Mojave Counties. 

"And the distance between somebody's home and say Parker or Quartzsite or some of the main hubs could be a 100-mile round trip," she explained.

That’s a lot of time on the road with fewer resources to do the driving. A 2015 Pew Research Center analysis found that La Paz County had the third-highest percentage of people 65 and older in the country. 

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