By Marianne Delorey
Everyone seems to take a stab at rating communities on different criteria. A simple search on “best places” helps people decide where to live, work, eat, raise children, and retire. While many of these lists are informative and interesting, only some are based on measurable information.
This article is the first in a series on communities in Central Mass. The intent of the series is to examine several factors that make different towns better or worse for their aging citizens. These factors include such things as financial investment, housing, transportation, access to medical facilities, and other amenities. The overarching theme of the ratings used is choices. Since the older population is very diverse in their likes and dislikes, no one town will appeal to every elder. However, any municipality that wants to attract or keep more elders has a toolbox to make their town more appealing. This series will attempt to examine how towns fare in offering their elders choices.
Still, in a world with data overload, opinion does merit quite a bit of thought, so for these articles, I am deliberately presenting some data and interpreting it, but am relying on you to comment and share your opinions. Please let me know what I am missing. Did I overlook a whole category that can help compare communities? Is my way of quantifying a factor valid? Fair? Accurate? What intangible information is missing from the data? Is there a sense in your community that elders are revered? Despised? It is my strong hope that this series of articles will create a discussion about what elders want and need from their communities so that the communities will know how to help their elders.
Comparing towns and cities
To level the playing field as much as possible, this analysis will determine the best and worst small, midsize and large communities across many factors. If not for this breakdown, there would be no way to fairly compare the amenities offered by the second largest city in New England, to a small, rural community with a population of less than 1,000. The communities are categorized by the number of elderly residents as of the 2010 census. My thinking is that it is the number of elders in the community that should steer what is offered to them, not the total population. However, it goes without saying that if a town is looking to attract more elders, they should step up what they are able to offer.
Topics to compare
This analysis will involve several articles. The first article will compare the medical amenities offered in each community. The second will look at how municipalities fund their senior centers. Subsequent analyses will examine housing, cost of living, transportation options, and other characteristics of the towns. The best and worst towns will be highlighted in each category and an overall score will be presented for each community at the conclusion of the series. Back up data will be available for those who like to see the numbers behind the analysis.
Stay tuned for a detailed look at the Central Mass area! Please don’t forget to comment. We look forward to hearing from people in every town.
Marianne Delorey, Ph.D. is the executive director of Colony Retirement Homes. She can be reached at 508-755-0444 or firstname.lastname@example.org and www.colonyretirementhomes.com. Archives of articles from previous issues can be read at www.fiftyplusadvocate.com