Last Spring, the Pinellas Community Foundation (PCF) and the Area Agency on Aging of Pasco-Pinellas (AAAPP) joined forces to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment of the area’s aging community. A printed survey, the Community Assessment Survey of Older Adults (CASOA), was sent to 10,000 randomly selected households across every Pinellas and Pasco zip code in which at least one resident was known to be aged 60 and over. A total of 2,200 completed surveys were received, which is a 22 percent response.
Results from this landmark local survey were shared with more than 75 business and community leaders on Friday, Nov. 15.
“Older residents in our community provide many things to us,” said Duggan Cooley, Pinellas Community Foundation CEO. “One of the most notable takeaways from the survey is that the economic impact of older adults in Pinellas County is astounding. In addition to the billions of dollars that are generated in wages earned, we gain just as much from their wisdom, their volunteerism and their caregiving. It’s our obligation to respect them and to support them because without them our community will falter. What’s good for older adults in our community is good for the entire community.”
Morgan Adams, Senior Research Analyst, National Research Center started off the presentation with an overview of the CASOA tool design and implementation.
“This community is very unique,” she said. “For this project, we added some questions for disaster preparedness and home modifications for aging in place.”
The CASOA provides a statistically valid survey of the strengths and needs of older adults as reported by older adults themselves and provides comparable and relevant benchmark data to communities across the United States. While 87 percent of the Pinellas/Pasco population age 60+ rates the community as a good/excellent place to live, the survey indicates there’s still work to be accomplished regarding:
- Affordable Housing
- Access and Affordability of Healthcare
- Supporting our Caregivers
Mayor Camille Hernandez, City of Dade City, served as moderator of the discussion, which included the following panelists: Larry Costello, President of BayCare Health Plans, Laura Cantwell, Associate State Director, AARP, Kathy Black, Ph.D., Professor of Aging Studies and Social Work, USF, Sarasota-Manatee, Richard Prudom, Secretary, Florida Department of Elder Affairs and Paula Giakoumakis, a full-time caregiver.
“Florida is an age-friendly state,” Laura Cantwell, Associate State Director of AARP told attendees at the meeting. “Seniors want to age and thrive in place and there are 34 communities working on this issue across the state.”
The CASOA instrument was carefully mapped to the AARP Livable Communities model and was found that the survey aligned well to the Age Friendly domains giving further guidance in enhancing the community’s age-friendly efforts.
“The senior population of Florida outnumbers the senior populations of 20 other states combined, as well as the total populations of Alaska, Delaware, the Dakotas, Rhode Island and Wyoming,” said Richard Prudom, Secretary, Florida Department of Elder Affairs. “Of Florida’s 21 million residents, 5.5 million are 60 and older, a number that’s expected to grow to 7.6 million in the next decade.”
Aging in place and supporting caregivers were the largest part of the panel discussion.
“Two out of three people have moved here from somewhere else. They are geographically distant from their families and they are relying on their neighbors,” said Kathy Black, Ph.D., Professor of Aging Studies and Social Work, USF, Sarasota-Manatee. “So many people say ‘Who will be there for me?’ Having access to a caregiver is the biggest predictor of ending up in a nursing home. And this survey tells us that people want to stay at home.”
Paula Giakoumakis, 78, a full-time caregiver, shared the resources that she’s found helpful in her Clearwater community as well as the challenges she faces.
“Informal caregiving has been a backbone — but its unpaid caregiving. Many have had to leave their careers and we should consider paying caregivers,” said Prudom. “It’s a job of love, but we need to support them so they can live and live well. Being a caregiver is stressful. Many pass away before the person they are caring for.”
To move from “data to action,” PCF and AAAPP will join with its other partner organizations to debrief and further study the results, identify and select key focus areas, brainstorm strategies and create a plan. The CASOA steering committee included the cities of Clearwater, Dade City, New Port Richey and St. Petersburg, Pasco County Government, Pasco County Health Department, Pinellas County Health Department and Pinellas County Human Services.
“We all acknowledge that resources will not allow for all the desired improvements at once, so it’s important to reconvene and expand our diverse group of community stakeholders that worked diligently to complete the Community Assessment,” said Kerry Marsalek, Manager of the Office on Aging for the City of Clearwater. “We will challenge these groups to use the CASOA results as a resource for their own strategic planning, comprehensive plans as well as policy-making, program development, grant writing, advocacy and fundraising.”
For more information, visit pinellascf.org/CASOA/.
Photo Caption: Panelists included (left to right) Richard Prudom, Secretary, Florida Department of Elder Affairs; Laura Cantwell, Associate State Director, AARP; Kathy Black, Ph.D., Professor of Aging Studies and Social Work, USF, Sarasota-Manatee; Paula Giakoumakis, a full-time caregiver, and Larry Costello, President of BayCare Health Plans.