The Herald Bulletin

October 21, 2013

Survey shows area seniors like their communities but concerned about health/wellness

By Kenneth D. Adkins For The Herald Bulletin
The Herald Bulletin

---- — People ages 60 and older in east central Indiana overall have a good view of their communities as a place to live but remain concerned about health and wellness issues and about access to community information, according to a survey conducted this spring.

The Community Assessment Survey of Older Adults (CASOA) was part of a statewide effort to determine needs and viewpoints on a variety of issues facing older adults.

LifeStream, the local Aging and Disability Resource Center for East Central Indiana, was among the 16 Area Agencies on Aging throughout Indiana that participated in the survey about six key areas: overall community quality, community and belonging, community information, productive activities, health and wellness, community design and land use.

The survey was conducted by the National Research Center (NRC) in Boulder, Colo., and was done with assistance of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration and the Indiana Association of Area Agencies on Aging. LifeStream, which is one of the AAAs in Indiana, covered Delaware, Blackford, Jay, Randolph, Henry, Madison and Grant counties. The local results were statistically weighted to reflect population of the area.

Questions included respondents’ perceptions about the communities in which they live, their overall physical and mental health, whether they think their neighborhood or living condition is safe, whether they feel there are adequate community resources available, how they feel about retirement and more.

The results give an overall picture of how adults 60 and older view various dimensions of their community and it also gives us information to consider as we look at programs and services, resource allocation, advocacy and engagement for older adults in our area. The long-term goal is to have a community of elders that is more engaged, supportive and supported, empowered, independent and vibrant.

Overall, most of the adults ages 60 and older surveyed gave high ratings to their community as a place to live, and about three-quarters of older adults said they would recommend their community to others. Almost three-quarters of respondents had lived in the community for more than 20 years and almost 9 in 10 plan to stay in the area throughout retirement.

The value of paid (part- and full-time) work and unpaid contributions (volunteering, providing care) by older adults in east central Indiana totaled about $1.3 billion in a 12-month period, according to those surveyed.

In the scope of community and belonging, the survey found nearly two-thirds of respondents reported “excellent” or “good” overall feelings of safety and between 7 and 12 percent had experienced safety problems related to being a victim of crime or abuse. About 4 in 10 older residents rated the sense of community as “excellent” or “good,” and slightly higher ratings were given for the community’s neighborliness and valuing of older residents.

Kenneth D. Adkins is president / CEO of LifeStream Services, the local Aging and Disability Resource Center for East Central Indiana.

Survey results Under community information, the Community Assessment Survey of Older Adults survey found: -- About 57 percent reported being somewhat or very informed about services and activities for older adults. -- About 41 percent of older adults felt local agencies had excellent or "good" information about resources for older adults and financial or legal planning services. -- Almost two-thirds of respondents had problems with not knowing what services were available, with about half saying they didn't feel like their voices were being heard in the community. -- About one-third reported having problems with finding meaningful volunteer work. -- In the health and wellness area, the highest portions of older residents reported problems with doing heavy or intense housework (64 percent) as well as staying physically fit (61 percent). -- About 3 in 10 adults said there was excellent or good availability of mental health care in east central Indiana, while about 8 in 10 rated their own overall mental health/emotional well being as excellent or good. -- The most commonly cited mental health issues included feeling bored and dealing with the loss of a close family member or friend. -- A little more than a third of respondents reported they had fallen and injured themselves in the 12 months prior to the survey, and almost 2 out of 5 reported at least minor problems with aspects of independent living. In other parts of the study, findings included: -- About 5 in 10 felt the city or area had excellent or affordable quality housing and variety of housing options. -- Respondents rated the ease of getting to places they usually have to visit and ease of car travel most positively with about 7 in 10 rating each as excellent or good. -- Almost 4 in 10 said they had at least minor problems getting adequate information about Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. -- About 2 in 10 reported having used a senior center in their community. -- Almost two-thirds of older residents said they were caregivers, and respondents averaged 8 to 10 hours per week providing care for children, adults and older adults. -- About 1 in 5 respondents felt physically, emotionally or financially burdened by their caregiving. -- More than two-thirds of those surveyed were fully retired but about a third experienced at least minor problems with having enough money to meet daily expenses. -- LifeStream Inc.