Wednesday, February 21, 2007

what research reveals

We conducted focus groups with older Darien residents. Here's what we found:

· Virtually all people interviewed want to stay in their homes – or at least in Darien.
· Many complained that Darien offers limited ways to downsize but stay in town. They want smaller, senior-friendly housing without having to leave the town they love and their friends. They mentioned the need for more condos and rental apartments.
· They are all independent-minded and do not want to ask for help or feel that they need help. When they get help, they feel guilty about receiving it.
· Most want to help others and are vibrant people who want to learn and volunteer.
· However, they are concerned about those who cannot take care of themselves.
· They’d like to learn more about what available to help them but don’t want to be “sold”.
· They love the elements of the community that make up their individual support network -- their friends, their churches, the DCA, the Senior Center, and being near family.
· They love the library, the beach, Long Island Sound, being near NYC and other stimulating and cultural places, the suburban feel and look of Darien.

They cited the following issues as obstacles to staying in their homes as they age:
· Increasing taxes and cost of living
· Home maintenance issues – from getting small handyman-type jobs done, to getting garbage to the dump, to getting leaves raked.
o They want “affordable”, reliable, responsive, trustworthy service
· Transportation – getting to the store, to doctors or to therapy (Gallivant and Red Cross both have limitations.)
· Fear of isolation (“What if no one knew my helper hadn’t arrived?”)
· Communication – lack of awareness of what is available.

These findings reaffirmed many issues raised in a 1999 survey among seniors in Darien.

So, we're going to explore the following:
· Research what other communities have done and are doing to address these issues. Do not “reinvent the wheel”, but look for a model that could work in Darien.
· Start small and grow a grassroots effort to address problems. For example:
o Handyman volunteers and/or a list of “vetted” service providers
o Expand Gallivant or start an independent transportation system.
· Create a better, cohesive plan for getting the word out about what exists to help seniors in Darien and our area.
· Continue to reach out to seniors and engage them in conversation as to how they can help each other through a volunteer network.

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