Happy National Senior Citizens Day!

Two years ago, Erie County Senior Services sought to learn more about the overall “age-friendliness” of the county by surveying residents on issues related to the so-called Domains of Livability, which include housing, public and outdoor spaces, transportation, respect and inclusion, communication and information, civic participation and employment, health and community services, and social participation.  They also wanted to share information about communication methods and technology as well as rate community satisfaction with local information.  In all, nearly a thousand respondents were included in the final analysis.

CCNY’s own Dr. Molly Ranahan Arent co-directs the Age-Friendly Erie County initiative with her friend and colleague, Brittany Perez, Director of Outreach and Engagement, Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access at SUNY Buffalo.  Brittany in turn, co-founded the initiative in 2014 with Randall Hoak from Erie County Senior Services.  Dr. Ranahan Arent had the opportunity to work on the initiative in a full-time capacity while working as an Erie County Senior Services research analyst.

The assessment and report was completed by Molly, Brittany, Jimin Choi (an Urban Planning doctoral student and employee at the IDeA Center, and Ryan Gadzo (now Research Analyst at Erie County Department of Senior Services).  All four have collaborated on the Age-Friendly initiative since 2016 and worked in partnership with many local organizations.  The report findings informed dedicated efforts at CCNY to further develop Arounja, a free community resource app.  Click here to read the full report.

The AFEC team incorporated stakeholder feedback from the AFEC Network Needs Assessment Workshop to inform priorities for gathering input from Erie County residents.  Participants across the ten domain groups identified three primary issues to address as part of assessment activities:

1.  Older adults and their caregivers experience barriers when accessing local information and communicating with agencies and service providers in the county
2.  Local groups and organizations struggle reaching older adults and caregivers when disseminating information about programs, activities, and services
3.  Local groups and organizations report having limited knowledge about other local resources and services

Many older adults in Erie County described challenges obtaining local information, most frequently pointing to issues with customer service, automated answering systems, and website navigation.  Survey results also indicated widespread lack of knowledge about and low rates of utilization of community-aging resources in Erie County, including 2-1-1, Erie County Senior Services, and NY Connects.

The Health Foundation of Central and Western New York provided support for CCNY to increase the knowledge of and the engagement of residents living in Western New York in further development of Arounja, namely a new feature meant to screen individuals for social needs and link them with targeted services in the app.  The screener will be used by individuals looking for personal information or by others, such as care coordinators and families, seeking information for a client or a loved one.  It will include the primary domains for screening recommended by the Institute of Medicine and additional questions developed from community input.

The screener used throughout the pilot study was created by combining new and previously validated screening questions related to the social determinants of health and age friendly domain areas.  In conjunction with our resident Americorps VISTA member’s work, graduate student interns, Jaydra Smith and Tim Hurysz, were brought on to modify and distribute the questionnaire.  For the purposes of pilot testing, discussion questions related to the use of the tool and comprehension of the content were added.

Click here to learn more about Arounja.