News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Age Friendly Sisters acts as ‘incubator’

Age Friendly Sisters Country wants ideas — but only ones that have real action tied to them.

“We are not an idea orphanage. Don’t bring your idea [for a community program or service] to our door and leave it on the doorstep. Age Friendly Sisters Country (AFSC) is an incubator, where a shared idea is nurtured along,” said Chris Laing, AFSC president.

Sisters Transportation and Ride Share (STARS) is an example of an idea that was nurtured as an action team by AFSC, which provides the administrative support to get a good idea off the ground. AFSC acts as the fiscal sponsor for an action team, providing their 501(c)(3) nonprofit designation, a bank account, insurance, and grant preparation assistance. They also offer help with marketing and website assistance.

Many great community ideas burn out because of all that is required to take the idea through a challenging and costly set of hoops to become a viable, lasting program.

Laing describes AFSC as “a launchpad for transforming into actions that enhance the livability for everyone in Sisters Country.” With the support of AFSC, through their activities, action teams initiated by residents help enhance the quality of life for all people who live, work, and play in Sisters Country.

Action teams are the reason for AFSC’s existence.

Livability of Sisters is a hot topic currently, due to the rapid growth taking place.

In the Comprehensive Plan update, Goal 4 has been added, addressing that very topic.

Although in 2018 the initial focus of a Sisters group, called the Senior Alliance, was to identify the unmet needs of a rising senior population in the area, the Sisters Country Vision in 2019 articulated a new livability goal for all ages as a strategy for a resilient Sisters.

At the same time, AFSC formed to help the City attain World Health Organization recognition in a worldwide effort to improve livability standards for all. The City Council voted to approve the designation and committed to use age-friendly/livable-community criteria to identify community needs and service gaps and plan an action strategy to address those needs.

“Although AARP supports and promotes the age-friendly/livable-community framework in the U.S., the goals of the framework apply to people of all ages and abilities,” pointed out AFSC Vice President Dixie Eckford. “This framework is clearly a model for diversity, equity, and inclusion that is vital for our community.”

Over the past two-and-a-half years, despite the roadblocks set up by the pandemic, AFSC has established a solid foundation on which to grow their efforts. They are incorporated with bylaws and a board of directors, have set up and acquired all the necessary facets of a well-run business, have received at least a dozen grants to help carry out their mission, and completed a short-term strategic plan for 2021.

Collaborations with other community organizations like Citizens4Community, the Ford Family Foundation, Sisters Visioning Process, Sisters Country website, Oregon AARP, and City Club of Bend have provided valuable community activities and educational opportunities.

Their work has been recognized locally, statewide, and nationally with Sisters representatives asked to give presentations before the Oregon AARP Roundtable and as a member of a moderated panel discussion on envisioning better aging for the City Club of Bend.

“Through the work of AFSC, Sisters is recognized in Oregon as a leader in this effort and serves as an example to other communities of what can be achieved,” said Eckford.

There are currently three citizen-initiated action teams under the AFSC umbrella. The aforementioned STARS has 34 trained drivers to provide Sisters Country residents who need rides with free transportation in Sisters, Bend, and Redmond for non-emergency medical appointments: medical, dental, vision, physical therapy, hearing, lab work, and testing. Services have also been expanded to include some local pickup and delivery of pre-ordered groceries, healthcare products, and prescription refills.

Rides are available Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. To schedule rides or deliveries, call STARS dispatch at 541-904-5545 on Tuesday or Thursday between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. At least 48-hour advance notice is required. For general information, email [email protected]

STARS drivers are community members who generously donate both time and gas so that Sisters Country residents can get much-needed help. All volunteers are screened and trained. All drivers continue to follow a CDC-guided health protocol. STARS welcomes new volunteers, who will receive protocol training and a background check.

The other two action teams include Tollgate Village, which launched during the pandemic and is currently on hold until the community is able to fully open. Their mission is to provide social activities, interest groups, and resident support among residents of Tollgate. There is also a temporary action team encouraging vaccination against COVID-19.

Anyone with an idea for a program or service that will contribute to the livability of Sisters is encouraged to go to the website,, for contact information. They also have a Facebook page, Age Friendly Sisters Country. The website is also where someone can join an already active action team.


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