Surveys assess NL, Spicer's services for the seniors residents

Surveys filled out in New London and Spicer show where the communities excel in providing services for seniors -- and where they could improve. Amy Wilde, senior services development consultant and a Meeker County commissioner, has presented the ...

Surveys filled out in New London and Spicer show where the communities excel in providing services for seniors -- and where they could improve.

Amy Wilde, senior services development consultant and a Meeker County commissioner, has presented the survey results the last couple weeks to the New London and Spicer city councils. The surveys were funded by the Southwest Minnesota Foundation and are meant to assess whether communities are "senior citizen-friendly."

Overall, seniors in both communities rated the cities well, but there is room for improvement, according to the results. In Spicer, 79 percent of respondents said they plan to spend their retirement in Spicer and that it is generally a good place for older people. In New London, 76 percent said the same about retirement in that city.

New London has the highest percentage of people over 65 years old among cities in Kandiyohi County, with seniors making up 27 percent of the population. The state average is 13 percent.

Spicer's senior citizen population is higher than the state average at 20 percent, but lower than New London, Prinsburg and Lake Lillian.


Kandiyohi County's senior citizen population is expected to increase. In the 2000 census, 930 residents aged 85 or older lived in the county. By 2010, that number is expected to be 1,280, according to Wilde's research.

Retired township residents often move into rural cities to be closer to amenities, Wilde said. Cities that think about their senior citizens when making decisions will make their cities more attractive for seniors, she said.

Senior citizens are an asset to a community because they have more discretionary income, bring skills to community organizations, churches and schools and tend to be more loyal to local businesses, according to Wilde's report.

"Local governments should find ways to encourage active, vital aging," she said in her report.

In Spicer 19 people filled out surveys, while 38 senior citizens in New London did.

Spicer and New London scored well in support for caregivers, navigation of the community, community participation, access to health care, opportunities for exercise, safety, financial security and supportive housing.

In Spicer responses were mixed for regular housing and some services, with some saying they have to travel to New London and Willmar. New London seniors also had concerns about affordable housing and cited the lack of a local pharmacy as a drawback.

Some Spicer respondents also noted that the grocery store in New London has home delivery service and wanted a similar service in Spicer.


Wilde suggested some coordination with the pharmacy in Spicer and grocery stores to provide delivery services in both communities.

Both New London and Spicer received the "highest marks" on the survey for support given to caregivers, such as respite care and support groups, according to the results. But a significant number of seniors in both communities did not know these services exist. Wilde suggested more promotion of these support services.

In both New London and Spicer, more than 70 percent of respondents rated the cities well for having clearly marked streets, readable signs and adequate parking. Wilde suggested well-marked crosswalks or programmed lights for crossing busy streets in both communities.

The seniors rate the Kandiyohi Area Transit services as "adequate," but a significant number didn't know how to access any type of bus service or aren't familiar with it, the results said.

Most respondents in Spicer were aware of local volunteer driver programs, but in New London several survey respondents did not know of these programs. She suggested further promotion and possibly expansion of driver services in both communities.

New London's senior center was rated well by 94 percent of respondents. Spicer's senior center approval rating was similar at 95 percent. Both New London and Spicer senior citizens surveyed said they felt safe in their communities.

Seniors in both communities rated their financial security well, overall. But those responding to the Spicer survey seemed more aware of social services for low-income people than those taking the survey in New London.

Some seniors were also unaware of or can't afford housekeeping, home repair or yard work services. Wilde suggested that a senior citizens' group or public health agency develop a list of chore service referrals.


To follow-up on these results, a three-page checklist will be mailed annually to each city to distribute to a senior citizen advisory group, starting in 2006.

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