Quality of Life Indicators Related to Sussex County’s Growing Senior Population: Preliminary Needs Assessment and Environment Scan

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Statewide senior population trends, particularly the projected growth in the percentage of older adults in more rural areas of Delaware, are becoming increasingly important for local officials, social service organizations, and community stakeholder groups to consider. As the area’s senior population increases over the next decade, demands for social services, affordable housing, and accessible transportation are also likely to increase. Based on previous transportation-related projects and work with senior centers in Sussex County, Delaware, the Institute for Public Administration (IPA) conducted a preliminary needs assessment and environmental scan that will help inform future statewide research and educational activities and provide considerations for local officials, nonprofits, and community groups regarding the need for greater senior-friendly environments within their communities— considerations that could shape longer-term, county-wide planning and support the needs of the area’s older adult population and their opportunity to age in community. To obtain additional information about the needs and interests of Sussex Countians and their opportunities for aging in community, IPA project manager Julia O’Hanlon, working with doctoral student Angela Kline, developed a literature review and research outline, conducted semi-structured interviews with community stakeholders, and coordinated with the Sussex County Advisory Committee on Aging & Adults with Physical Disabilities on polling participants at the LIVE Conference in October. This project was conducted in cooperation with and support from the University of Delaware’s Sustainable Coastal Communities Initiative (SCCI). SCCI Program Coordinator Edward Lewandowski and IPA Policy Scientist Martin Wollaston served as senior advisors for this work. This project builds on IPA’s statewide work related to mobility, aging, transportation, land use, and complete communities. Additionally, it extends work conducted with SCCI in 2014 on the Sussex County Transportation Cooperative, now referred to as ITNSouthernDelaware, and helps inform other IPA project work with state agencies such as the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT), Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC). In response to SCCI’s request for proposals, IPA developed a project proposal in the spring of 2015 to conduct a preliminary needs assessment and environmental scan to identify preliminary strengths, weaknesses, and gaps in resources for senior citizens in Sussex County. This assessment should be considered one small piece of a larger and increasingly complex policy issue related to the state’s overall influx of seniors to its coastal and rural areas. Additionally, this document serves as the baseline for future research and work in this area. IPA’s objective for this project was to identify preliminary strengths, weaknesses, and gaps in resources for senior citizens in Sussex County. This preliminary needs assessment and environmental scan is the first step in identifying future research activities and informing appropriate strategies to prepare for the changes that Sussex County is currently experiencing. Information obtained for this assessment summary derived from a literature review of key quality of life indicators, as well as through informal interviews with community stakeholders, informal polling, and LIVE Conference (October 2015) participation evaluations. This assessment summary document is categorized into five primary content areas including quality of life indicators: 1. Demographics 2. Community Models 3. Transportation and Mobility 4. Sussex County Community-Based Resources 5. Strategies for Future Opportunities
Quality of life, Senior ctizens, Aging, Delaware senior citizens, Sussex County, DE, Senior housing, Senior health