The State of Indiana surveyed their older adult population so they could understand their needs and create a four-year plan.
States need to understand the unique circumstances of their aging population so they can create a flourishing community for all residents. This knowledge is more important than ever as baby boomers move through their golden years. Older adults may need better access to health services, new modes of transportation, or more information about programs available to them. But how do states know for certain where they are succeeding and what areas of livability need more focus?
The CASOA survey questions focus on seven aspects of livability, including:
Employment and finances
Equity and inclusivity
Health and wellness
Information and activities
CASOA results provide Indiana leaders with thorough information so they can more accurately predict what resources the older generation might need. Once complete, Indiana leaders incorporate the survey findings into state plans, which are due every four years. CASOA fulfills the federal government's needs assessment requirement to demonstrate reasoning behind decision-making. Survey results also make the case for specific programs that require funding.
“We want 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 said Michelle Kobayashi, Polco’s Vice President of Innovation. "We want to measure the contributions of older adults in their communities, and also develop estimates and projections of resident needs."
How Indiana Conducted a Statewide Older Adult Survey
In total, 85,000 surveys were mailed to randomly selected residents over age 65 in Indiana. (Each state has a different definition of what qualifies a person as an older adult.) Each randomly selected resident received a postcard with a weblink directing them to take the survey online, as well as a paper survey with return postage.
Indiana residents who were not selected in the random sample had the opportunity to take the survey online for additional insight.
The state received 7,845 responses from the randomly-selected pool, as well as 785 responses from the open participation portion.
Polco’s data science team analyzed the results and presented the findings to Indiana’s state and AAA leaders.
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 about adult services (44%) as the most important areas of focus.
Because dozens of municipalities have conducted CASOA, Indiana also can see where they stack up compared to jurisdictions across the US. And because Indiana leaders have conducted CASOA three times since 2013, 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 has 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. And because all 16 Indiana Area Agencies on Aging completed individual CASOAs in their regions, those agencies can put a more targeted plan into action. The state can direct resources to where they are needed now, 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.