How the State of Indiana discovered what mattered most to their older residents.
Our needs change as we age. Access to health services, transportation, and other services become more important. Ensuring communities adjust to those needs is vital as the country as a whole grows increasingly older. But how do governments know for certain they are meeting those needs?
The State of Indiana uses Polco’s Community Assessment Survey for Older Adults (CASOA) to get a clear view of what older adults think about quality of life in their state. The State has conducted the survey three times since 2013. Results equipped Indiana leaders with information so they can more accurately predict how to support the older generation.
"The goal of CASOA is to identify a community’s strengths to support successful aging. We want to articulate and measure the specific needs, so when states build their four-year plans or programs, officials know how many people are impacted," said Michelle Kobayashi, Polco Principal Research Strategist who helped create CASOA. "We also want to measure the contributions of older adults in their communities."
CASOA focuses on seven aspects of livability, including:
Employment and finances
Equity and inclusivity
Health and wellness
Information and activities
What Older Adults in Indiana Think About Their Communities
CASOA data clearly lay out what priorities are most important to residents. Indiana community members cited housing (47%), physical health (45%), and information on adult services (44%) as the most important areas of focus.
And because Indiana conducted the survey multiple times over the years, leaders have a clear understanding of what metrics are improving, staying the same, or decreasing.
“I really pushed for us to do CASOA again because we do have that longitudinal measure of the pulse that is going on around the state with older Hoosiers,” said Erin Wright, Director of Access & Engagement for Indiana’s Division of Aging. “So that is a huge benefit of CASOA.”
Since 2017, the state improved in safety, sense of community, and ease of travel by car. But many metrics were down as a result of the pandemic. Ratings for recreational opportunities, fitness, access to public places and where people want to spend time, as well as public transportation, all decreased.
“Covid has shaken everything up. It’s not strange some of those ratings have gone down given what the pandemic has done, especially with our older residents who are more vulnerable and have been more isolated in the past 24 months,” Kobayashi said.
Incorporating Older Adult Survey Results Into Statewide Plans
Indiana's state plan is in draft form. State leaders are in the process of seeking public comment.
“We wrote the plan, and we put the plan out into the universe,” Wright said. “We’re holding a series of three in-person stakeholder feedback sessions, and then two virtual sessions to talk about the plan, our goals, objectives, and activities.”
The state hired an external contractor to facilitate the feedback sessions so they have an impartial information gatherer. Depending on the feedback, the state will make revisions to the plan before it is solidified.
Indiana is also currently working on a master plan on aging, which will be broader than the state plan. So decision-makers are thinking about resurveying in two years for the master plan project. Plus, the strange pandemic year created many statistical anomalies that are hard to gauge.
“We’re moving, sort of, out of the pandemic, so are we going to see if some of these significant changes remain, level out, or go back to where they were consistent in 2013 and 2017,” Wright said.
With CASOA, Indiana officials now have a broad understanding of aging in their state. The state can direct resources to where they are needed and be better prepared for what’s ahead.
The Community Assessment for Older Adults (CASOA)
Learn how CAOSA can give you data for decision-making directly from your adult community. And for more older adult research,download our white paper.