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Life is Good



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How do you define quality of life? Several new studies have crossed my desk recently that attempt to define the phrase used in our mission statement.  Most seek to define it by asking older adults and people with disabilities about their health and sense of well-being.

The United States of Aging is a survey conducted by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a), the National Council on Aging (NCOA) and UnitedHealthcare.   Respondents to the USoA share their concerns about mental and physical health, costs of care, remaining in their homes and staying connected to the community.

The theme of community also is important in the State of American Well-Being, a survey conducted by the Gallup, the MIT AgeLab and Healthways Senior Solutions.  Respondents are asked a series of questions about their sense of wellbeing along five measures:  sense of purpose, social support, financial security, community and health.  This year’s survey includes a new focus on people age 55 and older.

The third study is new.  The National Core Indicators-Aging and Disabilities (NCI-AD) is sponsored by the National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities (NASUAD).  Indiana’s Division of Aging is a member of this association.  NCI-AD tracks long term supportive services and measures their effectiveness based upon surveys of the people who rely on them.  The NCI-AD was piloted in three states in 2014-15.  Indiana will participate in the survey for the first time this year.

So what do these surveys tell us?  And what do we with do with that information?

First, it appears older adults display a high degree of optimism and sense of wellbeing.  Eight-six percent of older adults feel prepared for growing older.  And the majority, 78 percent, believe their communities’ infrastructures (including roads, sidewalks, etc.) are adequate.   People who were most satisfied or optimistic were also more likely to cite strong family supports, loving relationships and community connections, as well as participation in faith-based organizations.

Older Americans generally have a higher sense of wellbeing than their younger counterparts and express greater satisfaction with their standard of living.  The sense of wellbeing begins to increase around age 55, and continues to rise as people grow older.  Some attribute this to the satisfaction of seeing ones’ adult children complete their education, begin a career or start a family.  (I do see a lot more photos of friends’ grandchildren lately!)

A higher sense of wellbeing appears to be self-fulfilling. Those who have it also are more likely to get positive energy from family and friends and to take pride in their communities, and they are less likely to worry about money or to experience depression. In short, a positive attitude produces positive outcomes.

Second, the national surveys also reveal that there is room for improvement. Better transportation options, help with home modifications, more opportunities for community engagement and a greater emphasis on health and wellness can help make our community more livable and promote a better quality of life for all.

CICOA’s investments in long-term supportive services address the needs identified in these various surveys.  The needs of older adults and people with disabilities may be universal, but the most effective responses are home and community-based and are built upon networks of friends, family and service providers.

You can see the results of recent community surveys of Central Indiana residents on the CICOA website:  http://cicoa.org/about-us/our-community/

And, you can read more about the national surveys cited above by clicking on these links.