Senior Needs Assessment
Service Gaps Analysis
City Council Committee Votes to Release Study of Senior Needs
There's a new "senior friendly living" aspect to our City now. Today the City Council Legal and Finance Committee voted for releasing the extensive City-funded study of senior citizens' needs and senior-related community services. The study was conducted by University of South Dakota Government Research Bureau in recent months, under the general guidance of a community-wide work group of experts, constituents, providers and community leaders. (I was fortunate to be invited to serve with this fine group.) The Bureau used telephone surveys, focus groups and other research techniques to gather a broad-based profile of community opinions (or, preferences, at least).
What the Study Found
The scope of the study focused on three main issues:
1. Most pressing current needs of seniors
2. How will needs shift in the next 20 years?
3. Which services, activities or facilities will improve Rapid City as a 50+ destination?
The study ranked 17 different areas. Three of those ranked "above" community need:
1: Civic and social engagement
2: Volunteer opportunities
3: Community development.
Five categories were ranked "at" community need:
1- Community safety
2- Sense of community
4- Recreational opportunities
5- Religious and spiritual opportunities.
Nine areas were identified by the consultants as "below" current community need: (Please keep in mind, the researchers did not study the actual needs, but rather, what study-respondents said were the needs.)
1- Access to health care (including specialists)
2- Mental health
3- Fitness opportunities
4- Independent living
5- Assisted living and skilled care
6- Access to services
8- Senior Housing
9- Transportation, mobility, and ADA-accessibility.
Really? Is it That Simple?
No. The report's authors indicated the interest in resources varied by age, race and socioeconomic status. In fact, the variations by age are quite substantial, consistent with the often-cited fact that there is no such things as a "typical senior." For example, the member-recruiting practices of both Rapid City area senior centers, including Minneluzahan and the Canyon Lake center, target persons from the 50's on up. That means you might readily find a member of one of the senior centers joining along with their grandparents!
What is Driving These Reported Needs?
Keep in mind this study reports on what the respondents reported as their needs and wants. However, if one were to ask the same respondent population what is the current consensus rigorous research findings in regards to making for a healthier lifestyle for a senior population, most of us would likely not know! Given that many experts support "the big-4", we can have a pretty good idea:
A- Mental stimulation
B- Social interaction
C- Good nutrition
D- Physical exercise.
It would have been interesting if the Council-funded project scope could have included pointed questions to respondents as to what new community resources would best address those four key factors in senior friendly living.
Hopefully not just another study, nor simply grist for speechwriting. No one is responsible (yet) for implementing any ideas or developing actions plans for the issues in the report. It should serve as a mobilizing catalyst for community groups (business, constituents, government, non-profits like churches, et al) to work together.
Personally, I believe not much symbiosis or coalescence of effort will boot strap any major forward progress unless some one, or some organization, decides to dedicate themselves unconditionally and passionately to organizing joint efforts.
I sure would enjoy an opportunity for my gerontology-services business, Senior Friendly Living LLC, to work with such a person. Any volunteers?