Not all older adults complain, nor does every community leave older adults raving about the quality of community life or the services available for active living and aging in place. Communities that assist older adults to remain or become active community participants provide the requisite opportunities for recreation, transportation, culture, education, communication, social connection, spiritual enrichment and health care.

Further, older adults, more than others, face difficulties with aspects of everyday life. For many older adults these difficulties vastly exceed the minor physical pains or small losses of function that characterize almost everyone’s circumstances after a certain age. When individual problems are added together, a group picture emerges that provides a useful description of the entire community.

The results of this survey describe Boone County as a livable community for older adults within six community dimensions of Overall Community Quality, Community and Belonging, Community Information, Productive Activities, Health and Wellness and Community Design and Land Use. The extent to which older adults experience difficulties and problems within these dimensions is also described.

Overall Community Quality
  • Overall Community Quality explores how older residents view the community overall, how connected they feel to the community and how well they can access information and services offered by Boone County, as well as how likely residents are to recommend and remain in the community.
  • Most of Boone County’s older residents (90%) gave high ratings to the community as a place to live.
  • Over three-quarters of older adults would recommend the community to others.
  • Just over half of respondents had lived in the community for more than 20 years and about 8 in 10 planned to stay in the community throughout their retirement.
  • When compared to other communities across the nation, Boone County older residents had similar ratings for Overall Community Quality.
Community and Belonging

A “community” is often greater than the sum of its parts, and having a sense of community entails not only a sense of membership and belonging, but also feelings of emotional and physical safety, trust in the other members of the community and a shared history. Older residents rated several aspects of Community and Belonging, including their sense of community and overall feelings of safety, as well as the extent to which they felt accepted and valued by others.

  • Most respondents (86%) reported “excellent” or “good” overall feelings of safety and between 6% and 27% had experienced safety problems related to being a victim of crime, abuse or discrimination.
  • About 7 in 10 older residents rated the sense of community as “excellent” or “good”; while 6 in 10 rated the County’s neighborliness and 5 in 10 rated valuing of older residents as “excellent” or “good”.
  • When compared to other communities in the U.S., older residents in Boone County provided mostly similar ratings for aspects of Community and Belonging.
Community Information

The education of a large community of older adults is not simple, but when more residents are made aware of attractive, useful and well-designed programs, more residents will benefit from becoming participants.

  • About 5 in 10 survey respondents reported being “somewhat” or “very” informed about services and activities available to older adults, which was similar to other communities in the U.S.
  • About half of older adults felt the community had “excellent” or “good” information about resources for older adults and financial or legal planning services.
  • About 7 in 10 respondents had problems with not knowing what services were available and feeling like their voice was heard in the community.
  • About 4 in 10 reported having problems with finding meaningful volunteer work, a rate that was higher in Boone County than in other communities.
Productive Activities

Productive activities such as traditional and non-traditional forms of work and maintenance of social ties combine with health and personal characteristics to promote quality of life in later life and contribute to active aging. Productive Activities examined the extent of older adults’ engagement participation in social and leisure programs and their time spent attending or viewing civic meetings, volunteering or providing help to others.

  • About 8 in 10 elders felt they had “excellent” or “good” volunteer opportunities, but only about one-third participated in some kind of volunteer work, a volunteer rate lower than other communities in the U.S.
  • About 1 in 10 respondents had used a senior center in the community, which was lower when compared to senior center use in other communities.
  • About 6 in 10 seniors said that they had at least “minor” problems having interesting social events or activities to attend.
  • A majority of older residents (59%) rated the recreation opportunities in the community as “excellent” or “good”; participation in recreational and personal enrichment activities in Boone County was similar to that in other communities.
  • Over half of older residents in Boone County said they were caregivers; caregiving respondents averaged between 5 and 14 hours per week providing care for children, adults and older adults.
  • About one-third older adults in Boone County felt physically, emotionally or financially burdened by their caregiving.
  • Four in 10 respondents experienced at least minor problems with having enough money to meet daily expenses.
  • About 6 in 10 respondents were fully retired.
  • The value of paid (part- and full-time work) and unpaid (volunteering, providing care) contributions by older adults in Boone County totaled about $235 million in a 12-month period.
Health and Wellness

Of all the attributes of aging, health poses the greatest risk and the biggest opportunity for communities to ensure the independence and contributions of their aging populations. Health and wellness, for the purposes of this study, included not only physical and mental health, but issues of independent living and health care.

  • Overall, the older adults in Boone County rated aspects of physical similarly to other communities in the U.S. including ratings of fitness opportunities, physical health care and their own overall physical health.
  • The proportions of older residents reporting at least minor problems with doing heavy or intense housework (71%), staying physically fit (70%) or maintaining a healthy diet (56%) was higher in Boone County than elsewhere in the country.
  • Only about 3 in 10 older residents felt there was “excellent” or “good” availability of mental health care in Boone County while over 8 in 10 rated their overall mental health/emotional wellbeing as “excellent” or “good.”
  • The most commonly cited mental health issues included feeling depressed (53%), feeling lonely or isolated (48%) and feeling bored (46%), while the least cited issues included figuring out which medications to take and when (22%). These proportion experiencing mental health problems tended to be similar to or higher than in other communities.
  • The availability of preventive health services were rated similar to the national average.
  • Over half of older adults reported at least minor problems with having adequate information or dealing with public programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Four in ten respondents reported spending time in a hospital, and just over half had fallen and injured themselves in the 12 months prior to the survey. Falls and hospitalizations occurred at higher rates in Boone County than in other communities.
  • At least 4 in 10 older adults reported at least minor problems with aspects of independent living, including one-third who reported having problems with performing regular activities, including walking, eating and preparing meals.
Community Design and Land Use

The movement in America towards designing more “livable” communities – those with mixed-use neighborhoods, higher-density development, increased connections, shared community spaces and more human-scale design – will become a necessity for communities to age successfully. Communities that have planned for older adults tend to emphasize access – a community design that facilitates movement and participation.

  • Respondents rated the ease of getting to the places they usually have to visit, ease of car travel and ease of walking most positively with about 7 in 10 or more rating each as “excellent” or “good.”
  • About 3 in 10 respondents felt they had “excellent” or “good” availability of affordable quality housing and variety of housing options.
  • Some older adults experienced problems with having safe and affordable transportation available (39%) while others experienced problems with having housing to suit their needs (18%) or having enough food to eat (19%). Daily living problems tended to be similar in Boone County when compared to other communities across the nation, but problems with transportation were more frequent.
  • About three-quarters of older residents rated their overall quality of life as “excellent” or “good”, which was similar to other communities in the U.S.