As reported by The Republican, October 21, 2007.

Survey Gauges Needs of Elderly

The Eight-Page Survey

By Ken Ross

HOLYOKE - A survey designed to gauge what elderly residents will need over the next 20 years was recently mailed out a second time to residents who did not fill out the survey the first time this summer.

"It's really important for folks to respond," Kathleen A. Bowler, executive director of the city's Council on Aging, said Friday. "We're really looking to the future to what needs we are anticipating."

The eight-page survey was mailed earlier this month to more than 1,000 city residents over the age of 45, Bowler said. In August, the city mailed more than 3,100 identical surveys to residents in the same age bracket.

The response to the August survey was "fairly good," Bowler said. A total of 253 people or 18 percent of residents between the ages of 45 and 59 returned the August survey. Among people age 60 and older, 31 percent or 466 residents filled out the August survey and returned it.

Currently, about 7,500 people 60 or older live in Holyoke, while about 6,000 residents are between 45 and 59 years old.

The survey is being paid for with $27,000 that was approved by the City Council and Mayor Michael J. Sullivan last year.

The questionnaire asks how respondents spend their money, whether they drive a car or depend on others for transportation, how they learn about community activities and whether they use a computer.

The survey also asks more personal questions that may highlight the need for home-care visits or counseling services.

Question 22, for instance, asks, "How often do you talk to your close friends or family?" Question 25 asks, "Do you often feel sad or depressed?" Question 36 asks, "How would you rate your health at this time?"

This is the first time the city has conducted such a survey. Designed by the University of Connecticut's Center on Aging with input from a local Needs Assessment Team, the survey asks Baby Boomers and today's elderly how they spend their time, whether they have family or close friends nearby, what kind of medical care they need and how able they are to function day to day.

"It (the survey) will be very helpful for organizations that deal with older residents," Bowler said.

All completed surveys have been mailed to the University of Connecticut, which is compiling the results.