Creating Community for a Lifetime


News Release


Roberta F. King, APR, Grand Rapids Community Foundation
Phone: 616.454.1751

Survey Reveals Area Seniors Are Engaged, but Opportunities to Improve Exist

GRAND RAPIDS - The current and projected growth of the aging population is a subject of growing interest and concern at the local, state and national levels. In Kent County one of every 10 residents is 65 or older÷and in the next 25 years the population of residents over 65 is expected to double.

To determine how "elder-friendly" older people consider the community, the Grand Rapids Community Foundation and Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan and the joint initiative, Creating Community for a Lifetime sponsored a survey of 500 adults over the age of 65. "The purpose of this survey is to help us understand what older people think about where they live, what they personally have to offer the community and what they think they want to help them remain vital in the community. Overall, we are pleased that life in Grand Rapids is perceived very positively," said Diana Sieger, President of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation.

The survey took place in July and August asking questions regarding issues in four broad areas.The survey covered topics ranging from addressing basic needs and maximizing independence for the frail elderly to optimizing physical and mental health and promoting social and civic engagement.

"Survey results create a picture that shows older adults in Kent County are overwhelmingly vibrant, contented, and active contributors to their families, neighbors and communities. The frail are indeed the minority ö and all indications are that many of them yearn to participate more fully in their communities, if only they had access to a few of the supports that they need," said Sieger.

For example, one of the most striking findings is that 95 percent of older people in Kent County want to continue living in their own homes, in their own neighborhoods, for as long as possible. Nine out of ten older adults in Kent County are satisfied with their neighborhoods, 95 percent feel safe where they live, and only eight percent feel their homes need to be modified for them to continue to live there ö all about the same or more positive than national averages.

The survey results reinforce recent findings by the Michigan Department of Community Health that older Kent County residents are healthier than their counterparts throughout Michigan. On all 11 survey health indicators, Kent County older residents scored higher than the national average.

It appears that routine activities are most burdensome to some older adults. 23% reported that they have difficulties in performing daily living activities, and 50 percent of those respondents said their needs are not being met. These unmet needs consist of help with personal care, housework, and financial matters.

"Grand Rapids is a caring and generous community that has many wonderful programs funded through the Kent County senior millage and Older Americans Act. When we identify those in need, itās very likely we can provide them with that little extra help to remain independent and safe in their homes," said Tom Czerwinski, director of the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan, ćand helping them stay at home is much less expensive than moving to a more supervised setting."

The survey demographics follow:

The Grand Rapids Community Foundation, the oldest community foundation in Michigan, was founded in 1922. It continues to fund, initiate and lead programs that benefit the Grand Rapids area in the arts, community development, education, environment, health, and human services.