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If you go
What: Presentation of a survey of northeast Indiana older adults
By: Aging & In-Home Services of Northeast Indiana
When: 10:30 a.m. Wednesday
Where: Room C, Allen County Public Library, 900 Library Plaza
The presentation will be followed by a public hearing regarding the Indiana Division of Aging State Plan 2015-2018. The plan can be found at in.gov/fssa/da/3462.htm
Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Olivia Puryear, 85, says the Community Center fills a spot for her.

Older adults give region high marks

Agency’s survey shows what services will be needed soon

Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Eugene Scruggs, left, shoots pool with Cameron Anderson at the Community Center.
The Journal Gazette

Shooting pool as other seniors in an adjacent room get help filing income taxes, Eugene Scruggs and Cameron Anderson say Fort Wayne’s Community Center is an oasis for older adults to stay functional and needed.

Scruggs, 65, has used the center for the last three or four years. He shoots pool and used to work out upstairs. Anderson, 59, calls the center “a beautiful program” not available in many other cities.

But outside of the center, does the community value seniors?

“I still see respect,” Scruggs said. “Not as much as there used to be. But I still see kids respecting older people. So, that’s a big point.”

When it comes to their community, northeast Indiana older adults give high marks and would recommend it to others. Most of them, like Scruggs, feel safe; few have been victimized.

They find it easy to get around, for the most part, and are relatively comfortable with the availability of preventive health services.

And while they generally rate their quality of life higher than others in the state, northeast Indiana older adults find some things lacking. Many believe communities don’t place a high value on older residents, and job opportunities for seniors aren’t great. Many find themselves caregivers in their twilight years.

The findings are from a 2013 survey of households with residents 60 years and older compiled for Aging and In-Home Services of Northeast Indiana. The group is one of 16 Area Agencies on Aging in Indiana that performed identical surveys. The agencies provide case management, information and referrals to services for people who are aging or who are developmentally disabled.

Together the surveys form a statewide look at the senior population and were used to develop a proposed plan on aging for 2015-2018. The new plan will get a public hearing Wednesday at the Allen County Public Library.

In northeast Indiana, 396 households completed surveys out of 2,000 sent randomly to older adults. Aging and In-Home Services of Northeast Indiana serves Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, LaGrange, Nobel, Steuben, Wells and Whitley counties.

“One thing that was kind of throughout the whole survey was that people really rated their communities in northeast Indiana excellent as a place to live,” said Beth Krudop, vice president of administration for the agency.

“Excellent” or “good” is how 84 percent of northeast Indiana respondents rate their community. A clear majority chose the same terms to describe it as a place to retire.

But those large numbers come with a caveat: Most people aren’t leaving as the large baby boom generation retires.

“One thing with the high rating of the place to live and retire, then on the flip side of that (is) ‘Oh everybody’s going to stay here and be aging in our community,’ ” Krudop said. “So we need to be prepared to take care of those folks.”

Connie Benton Wolfe, president and CEO of Aging and In-Home Services of Northeast Indiana, said that was partly the reason for the survey.

“We knew we had to get in front of the growing wave of older residents,” she said in a statement. “We need to keep Fort Wayne, Allen County and northeast Indiana an economically vibrant location, so we did the market research that any quality business does to learn what our customers are looking for.”

Perhaps surprising, the survey shows that only about 20 percent of northeast Indiana older adults go to senior centers, slightly higher than reported statewide. Krudop said bigger metro areas don’t use senior centers as much as smaller communities, such as those surrounding Allen County.

“The senior centers are very active and a lot happens there,” she said. “And I think people really in those smaller communities view that as a place to gather and a place to go for support and information and such.”

Aging and In-Home Services of Northeast Indiana is already working on some of the issues brought up in the survey.

About 4 in 10 reported having problems maintaining their homes. Krudop said the agency is working on increasing maintenance help for seniors. It currently helps with minor home repairs such as fixing a door but hopes to do more.

“I think people are finding they’re needing more help than that, and the programs aren’t there, so we’re looking at avenues for that,” she said.

Krudop also notes that a quarter of respondents had been hospitalized and about one-third had fallen and injured themselves. The agency, she said, is working with the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health on a fall prevention program that audits homes for fall hazards.

Help for caregivers is another initiative.

“One thing we did find was that six in 10 people surveyed were caregivers for at least 12 hours a week, and that is one area where we’re really adding some new programming and things like that to reach out and support the caregivers,” Krudop said.

Olivia Puryear, 85, who was at the Community Center last week and volunteers there, knows all about caregiving.

“We’ve all been there a couple of times, maybe three times,” she said, touching on her own experience. “Your in-laws, your own parents, then your husband. He was six years in the veteran’s hospital here in Fort Wayne.” She said her husband died in 1995.

The Community Center fills a spot for her. Puryear said she feels safe in Fort Wayne and believes older adults are valued, except maybe on the road.

“Sometimes they think you’re going too slow when you’re driving the speed limit and they give you the finger,” she said. “Or they come rushing past you and they have to stop at the same stoplight you do. One day I rolled the window down and I said to the gentleman, ‘We got here at the same time, didn’t we.’ He gave me a stupid look.”

rshawgo@jg.net

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