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Survey Helps Agency Understand the Needs of Southeast Michigan Seniors

Results are in: Some 1,800 seniors surveyed in the six counties served by Area Agency on Aging 1-B told us what they’re thinking when it comes to health care and transportation, in-home care and social isolation, addiction and physical challenges they face every day, and more.

The results are interesting – even surprising – and mirror trends reported in a new statewide report that surveyed the needs of older Michiganders. More on that later.

The people who responded to the phone survey, conducted last summer, were divided by income (those making more and less than $25,000), residence (urban v. rural), and age (60-74 and 75-plus).

There were commonalities across county and demographic lines. For example, all seniors said they didn’t have enough handrails and grab bars around the house. Most said they didn’t have trouble finding transportation.

The purpose of the surveys is to identify needs among seniors in our region – who represent a third of the senior adult population in Michigan – and to advocate for them.

Here are just a few of the things we learned, by county:

Livingston County Seniors

  • Only 5.1% of seniors said they had trouble getting to places they need to go, but among people in lower-income households, the percentage rose to 12.1%.
  • About 20% of seniors said their main health concern is not doing things they enjoy. More than one-third of those are in lower-income households.
  • A third of seniors, regardless of demographics, said they don’t have health concerns.
  • Just under 10% of all seniors reported not seeing a doctor even though they thought they should have in the previous 12 months. More than twice as many of those — 18% — are lower income. Thirteen percent of seniors reported not seeing a dentist in the previous year, even though they should have. More than 21% are in the lower-income households.
  • Just over 5% of all seniors reported using tobacco.

Macomb County Seniors

  • A third of seniors in lower-income households reported that they their biggest health concern was not being able to do the things they enjoy.
  • Nearly 8% of seniors (about 17,000) did not go to a doctor in the previous 12 months, even though they thought they should. Over one-third of them said they were too afraid to go and more than 20% said they couldn’t afford it.
  • Nine percent of all seniors said they experienced painful feelings because of social isolation.
  • Just over 7% of seniors use tobacco and 1.6% use alcohol. None of them lives in rural areas.
  • More than 66% of all seniors said they would join a church, social club or community organization to be more socially active.
  • Just over 23% of seniors reported providing unpaid care to a relative or friend. Of those, the majority – 29.2% – are older than 75.

Monroe County Seniors

  • Just over 6% of all seniors use tobacco. More than 18% worried about addiction to caffeine.
  • Over 30% of all seniors reported not having health concerns.
  • More than 14% of all seniors said they would like more contact with friends, neighbors and relatives. Just over 7% said they have too much contact with friends, neighbors and relatives.
  • More than 60% of all seniors said they would participate in senior center programs and join a church, social club or community organization to be socially active
  • Nearly 30% of all seniors reported that walking or climbing stairs posed a serious challenge for them. Seniors in lower-income households are more than twice as likely to say it is a serious challenge.
  • More than 18% of seniors said the biggest unmet need faced by older adults in their community is home care assistance.
  • Nearly 58% of all seniors said they can comfortably afford to pay their bills – and have money left over. Thirty-six percent said they can afford to pay their bills if they are careful about their spending.
  • Eleven percent of all seniors said they were behind on paying medical bills; 9.6% said they were behind on paying credit cards.

Oakland County Seniors

  • Nearly 11% of seniors said they didn’t go to the doctor in the previous 12 months. Of those, one-third said they couldn’t afford it.
  • Nearly 44% of all seniors reported not having health concerns – the highest percentage in the six counties.
  • Nearly 46% of seniors in households that earn less than $25,000 report feeling badly about not being able to do what they used to do, as opposed to 25% of people in higher-earning households.
  • The vast majority of seniors of all ages reported not feeling stress, grief, worry, anger or loneliness in the previous 30 days.
  • More than 7.5% of seniors reported using tobacco.

St. Clair County Seniors

  • The biggest concern about their homes, among all seniors, is the lack of handrails and grab bars.
  • More than 6% of seniors report having trouble getting to where they need to go. Those in lower-income households are twice as likely to face transportation barriers.
  • More than a third of seniors reported not having health concerns. But those with less money are twice as likely as higher-income seniors to worry about coping with pain.
  • Nearly 72% of all seniors said they didn’t experience painful feelings like stress, grief, worry, anger or loneliness in the previous 30 days.
  • Just over 11% of seniors cited financial difficulties as the cause of painful feelings. Nearly 30% of them said those feelings were caused by the inability to do the things they used to do.
  • Eleven percent of seniors said they worried they were addicted to tobacco.
  • More than 16% of seniors said they didn’t know of social programs in their community such as wellness/fitness classes, social clubs, congregate dining
  • Nearly 30% of all seniors said that financial instability was the top hardship faced by older adults in their community

Washtenaw County Seniors

  • One-third of seniors provide unpaid care to a family member or friend. Lower-income seniors are twice as likely to be unpaid caregivers.
  • More than a third said they believe that financial instability is the top problem faced by older adults in the county.
  • Over 6% of seniors have trouble getting to where they need to go, with more than 10% coming from lower-income households.
  • Just over 6% of seniors say they are caring for a child, grandchild, spouse or parent. Eleven percent of them are 75 and older.
  • More than 9% of seniors carry more than $10,000 in debt (excluding mortgage and car loans), but 72% report having no debt.
  • Seven percent of all seniors reported using tobacco.