Senior Needs Study Shows Changing Population


In order to help identify the main concerns of the community related to the older adult population, the Valley Senior Services Council and the Valley Council for Health & Human Services along with the Valley United Way, embarked on an effort to assess the needs of this population. The new Hewitt Foundation provided the bulk of the funding to complete the study.  To assist with this effort, the United Way of Connecticut’s Community Results Center (CRC) conducted a multi-faceted research project, which included focus groups with older residents, and focus groups and interviews with providers of services to this segment of the population. Past research that focused on the needs of older adults was also reviewed.

The focus groups with residents were meant to reveal areas of greatest concern to older adults. The interviews and the focus group with service providers shed light on the services provided and uncovered the areas where needs are not being met. The focus groups and interviews specifically asked participants to consider the top issues facing older adults in their community and gaps which exist in services for older adults.

The report begins with an overview of the main issues raised during the research. It continues with a review of population statistics, including the growth of this segment of the population, race and ethnicity, and poverty levels. It also reviews the service requests made by older adults to the United Way’s 2-1-1 information and referral service, calls made to the Agency on Aging of South Central Connecticut, and research conducted in the Valley since 2000. The report then reviews the major issues that were brought to light by the discussions with residents and service providers in more depth.

There were four main issues that residents and service providers highlighted during focus group and interview discussions:

Transportation – While noting that there are a number of options available to seniors for medical and recreational transit, residents also noted a number of areas that are lacking. Older adults suggested that transit services are not currently offered in the evening and on weekends and that not all transit services can transport wheelchairs.

Social services – Older residents and service providers alike expressed an urgent need for social service assistance. Providers say there is no longer social service support at the town level and there is a need for an outreach worker who can provide direct service to homebound older residents.

Housing – Older adults in many towns in Connecticut are experiencing housing challenges, and those in the Valley are no different. These challenges include the limited stock of small one-story homes suitable for downsizing, rising property taxes, long waiting lists for public housing, and the difficulty in maintaining or modifying existing homes. Older residents of public housing are also concerned about the impact younger disabled residents who live in public housing have on their living environment.

Healthcare – Overall, interviews and focus groups suggest that the Valley provides older adults with adequate opportunities for health screenings and that this type of support for senior health is critical to maintain.

Click here to read the Executive Summary.

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