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 Hancock 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 Hancock County, as well as how likely residents are to recommend and remain in the community.

  • Most of Hancock County’s older residents gave high ratings to the community as a place to live.
  • About 9 in 10 older adults would recommend the community to others.
  • Nearly three-quarters of respondents had lived in the community for more than 20 years and about 9 in 10 planned to stay in the community throughout their retirement.
  • When compared to other communities across the nation, Hancock County older residents tended to rate aspects of Overall Community higher or similarly.
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.

  • Eight in ten respondents reported “excellent” or “good” overall feelings of safety and between 0% and 19% had experienced safety problems related to being a victim of crime, abuse or discrimination.
  • About half of older residents rated the sense of community as “excellent” or “good”; over half provided positive ratings for the County’s neighborliness while valuing of older residents was rated as “excellent” or “good” by about two-thirds of respondents.
  • When compared to other communities in the U.S., older residents in Hancock County provided similar or lower 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 two-thirds of survey respondents reported being “somewhat” or “very” informed about services and activities available to older adults, which was similar to reports from other communities in the U.S.
  • About one-third of older adults felt the community had “excellent” or “good” information about resources for older adults and half felt similarly about financial or legal planning services.
  • About three-quarters of respondents had problems with not knowing what services were available and over half had problems with feeling like their voice was heard in the community.
  • About one-third reported having problems with finding meaningful volunteer work, a rate that was similar in Hancock County compared to 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 9 in 10 elders felt they had “excellent” or “good” volunteer opportunities, but only about 4 in 10 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 half of seniors said that they had at least “minor” problems having interesting social events or activities to attend.
  • About half of older residents (56%) rated the recreation opportunities in the community as “excellent” or “good”; participation in recreational and personal enrichment activities tended to be lower in Hancock County than in other communities, although participation in recreation programs or group activities was higher.
  • Over half of older residents in Hancock County said they were caregivers; respondents averaged between 8 and 12 hours per week providing care for children, adults or older adults.
  • About a third of older adults in Hancock County felt physically, emotionally or financially burdened by their caregiving.
  • Eighty percent of respondents were fully retired, but about a one-quarter of respondents experienced at least minor problems with having enough money to meet daily, a proportion that was similar to other communities.
  • The value of paid (part- and full-time work) and unpaid (volunteering, providing care) contributions by older adults in Hancock County totaled about $190 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 Hancock County rated aspects of physical health similar to other communities in the U.S. including ratings of fitness opportunities, physical health care and their own overall physical health.
  • The portions of older residents reporting problems with doing heavy or intense housework (67%) or with staying physically fit (65%) was higher in Hancock County than elsewhere in the nation.
  • About one-quarter older residents felt there was “excellent” or “good” availability of mental health care in Hancock County while about 7 in 10 rated their overall mental health/emotional wellbeing as “excellent” or “good.”
  • The most commonly cited mental health issues included depression (48%) and experiencing confusion or forgetfulness (45%); the proportion of people experiencing depression in Hancock County was higher than other communities across the nation.
  • The availability of preventive health services were rated similar to services in other communities.
  • About 4 in 10 older adults reported at least minor problems with having adequate information or dealing with public programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
  • About 2 in 10 respondents reported spending time in a hospital, and about one-third had fallen and injured themselves in the 12 months prior to the survey. Falls and hospitalizations occurred at similar rates in Hancock County as in other communities.
  • About one-quarter of older adults reported at least minor problems with aspects of independent living, including 17% having at least minor problems with no longer being able to drive and one quarter having at least minor problems with falling in their home.
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.

  • About 8 in 10 respondents rated the ease of getting to the places they usually have to visit as “excellent” or “good,” a rating that was similar to the benchmark.
  • About half of respondents felt they had “excellent” or “good” availability of affordable quality housing and 6 in 10 felt there was an “excellent” or “good” variety of housing options, ratings that were similar to that observed in other communities.
  • Some older adults experienced at least minor problems with having safe and affordable transportation available (23%) while others experienced problems with having housing to suit their needs (15%) or having enough food to eat (15%). The proportion of respondents experiencing daily living problems tended to be similar in Hancock County when compared to other communities across the nation.
  • Over three-quarters of older residents rated their overall quality of life as “excellent” or “good,” similar to other communities in the U.S.