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 Hendricks 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 Hendricks County, as well as how likely residents are to recommend and remain in the community.
- Nearly all Hendricks County’s older residents (97%) rated the community as an “excellent” or “good” place to live, a rating that was higher than the benchmark.
- About 8 in 10 older adults would recommend the community to others.
- About 4 in 10 respondents had lived in the community for more than 20 years and 85% planned to stay in the community throughout their retirement.
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.
- About 8 in 10 respondents reported “excellent” or “good” overall feelings of safety. The proportion of seniors reporting at least minor problems with crime was 2%, while 5% cited problems with abuse in the 12 months prior to the survey. About 1 in 10 reported at least minor problems with being a victim of a fraud or scam. These proportions were similar to what was observed in communities across the nation.
- About two-thirds felt the community valued older residents, a rating similar to the benchmark, but only about half felt the community was open and accepting of diverse older residents, a rating that was lower than the benchmark.
- Sense of community in Hendricks County was viewed positively by about half of respondents, a rating that was also lower than the benchmark.
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.
- Just over half 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 3 in 10 older adults felt the availability of information about resources for older adults was “excellent” or “good,” a rating that was lower than the benchmark; while 43% felt the availability of financial or legal planning services was “excellent” or “good,” similar to the benchmark.
- Just over two-thirds of respondents had problems with not knowing what services were available, similar to what was found in other communities.
- About 4 in 10 reported having problems with finding meaningful volunteer work, a rate that was higher in Hendricks County than in other communities.
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 rated the volunteer opportunities in their community as “excellent” or “good,” but only 4 in 10 participated in some kind of volunteer work weekly, a volunteer rate that was lower than in other communities in the U.S.
- About 1 in 10 respondents had used a senior center in the community, which was similar 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 6 in 10 rated the recreation opportunities in the community as “excellent” or “good”; participation in recreational and personal enrichment activities tended to be lower or similar in Hendricks County than in other communities.
- Over half of older residents in Hendricks County said they were provided care for others for an hour or more per week; those who provided care for another older adult provided about 8 hours of care per week on average.
- About 2 in 10 older adults in Hendricks County felt physically, emotionally or financially burdened by their caregiving.
- About two-thirds of respondents were fully retired, while another third was working full- or parttime.
- The value of paid (part- and full-time work) and unpaid (volunteering, providing care) contributions by older adults in Hendricks County totaled over $460 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 Hendricks County rated aspects of physical health similarly to or higher than 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 (55%), maintaining their home (46%) or maintaining their yards (46%) was similar in Hendricks County compared to elsewhere in the country.
- About two-thirds of respondents reported at least minor problems with staying physically fit, while nearly half had at least minor problems maintaining a healthy diet, similar to what has been observed in other communities.
- Less than half of older residents (45%) felt there was “excellent” or “good” availability of mental health care in Hendricks County while 9 in 10 rated their own overall mental health/emotional wellbeing as “excellent” or “good.”
- About half of respondents reported having had at least a minor problem with feeling depressed or bored in the past year, while about one-third had experienced at least minor problems with feeling confused or forgetful. The proportion of people experiencing these aspects of mental health in Hendricks County similar to other communities across the nation.
- Nearly 8 in 10 of Hendricks County’s older residents rated the availability of preventive health services favorably, a rating that was higher than the benchmark.
- About half of respondents reported having at least minor problems getting adequate information about or dealing with public programs such as Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.
- About 2 in 10 respondents reported spending time in a hospital within the last year, and 2 in 10 reported having fallen or injured themselves in the past year, events which can indicate future vulnerability to needing assistance or nursing care. These proportions were similar to those that had been observed across the country.
- Among older adults surveyed, 17% had at least minor problems with no longer being able to drive, and a third had at least minor problems performing regular activities of daily living. These rates were also similar to what had been observed in other communities.
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.
- Eight in ten respondents rated the ease of getting to the places they usually have to visit as “excellent” or “good,” while 7 in 10 rated the ease of car travel or the ease of walking as “excellent” or “good.” These ratings were similar to the benchmarks.
- However, only 3% rated the ease of travel by public transit or on-demand transportation positively, much lower than had been observed in other communities.
- Just over half felt the community offered “excellent” or “good availability of affordable quality housing or variety of housing options; the first was higher than the benchmark while the second was similar. About 17% of seniors surveyed were experiencing housing stress, a lower proportion than observed in other communities.