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Survey to gauge seniors’ needs

Photo by Josh Miller/Sierra Sun Jack Bernardo, of the Truckee Post Office, Denise Kelly, of the Truckee Tahoe Seniors Council, and Wally Pascoe organize senior surveys that will be mailed throughout the community.
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From health care to transportation to social isolation, the Truckee Tahoe Seniors Council hopes to get a better picture of seniors’ needs when they receive responses to 3,000 six-page surveys that they mailed out to local elderly last week.

The first-of-its-kind survey of Truckee area seniors aims to remove the first big obstacle to improving service to the older population – being unaware.

“Seniors have been underserved in our community,” said Melanie Kauffman, executive director of the seniors council. “They have not had a strong voice of advocacy.”



The seniors council realized that not only was much of the community unaware of the specific needs of seniors, but the council itself did not have solid data to base its decisions.

“What we recognize now is the data is critical to developing effective programs because seniors in our area have never been surveyed,” Kauffman said.



All that should now be changing. With more than $12,000 in financing from the California Endowment and the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation, the seniors council will not only mail out the surveys, but plan on compiling the data into a comprehensive view of priorities and unmet needs of seniors in the area.

Kauffman said she expects the survey results to dovetail with concerns of the town, like housing and transportation. She said it could also reveal the unique needs of the senior population such as assisted living, health care and social isolation. And the survey is not only for the seniors council use, she said.

“This survey is not only critical for our purposes, but it is a tool that will be used by many other organizations. We’re fulfilling many objectives with this project because the data collected will be shared,” Kauffman said.

The seniors council, in a partnership with Washoe County Senior Service, already plans to distribute the survey in Incline Village within a month.

Tamara Lieberman, program officer for the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation, agreed that the survey is of regionwide importance.

“It’s going to have implications for the hospital, for a whole lot of different groups,” said Lieberman.

She added that the results of the survey will aid groups that want funding to help seniors, as they can refer to the survey’s results to show that they are effectively targeting real needs.

But for the survey to be a success, seniors must respond to the questionnaires. The senior council is counting on having the surveys mailed back to them by May 31, so that they can analyze and tabulate the data before the July 31 cutoff date for the program.

May is Older Americans Month, an appropriate time for the questionnaire, Kauffman said. She hopes that the May 22 music and lunch event at the Senior Center to celebrate the month, the council’s expansion of its Meals on Wheels program to the west shore of Tahoe and the senior survey will focus positive attention on seniors.

“That’s another goal … to bring the senior community into the forefront,” Kauffman said.


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