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Care Network Surveys Ways to Benefit Elderly

August 11, 1985|SUE AVERY | Times Staff Writer

Senior citizens in the West San Gabriel Valley are a generally healthy, active group whose major concern is that they don't know where to go for help and information, a recent survey indicates.

The survey was commissioned by the newly organized Senior Care Network, a Pasadena-based program aimed at coordinating and initiating medical, social and personal services for the Valley's estimated 112,000 residents over the age of 65.

It involved a carefully selected sample believed to be representative of the valley's older citizens. The Senior Care Network's goal is to establish and expand accessible, affordable and coordinated services for seniors, said director June Simmons. But the first step, she said, is to identify existing resources and identify gaps in the system.

Eventually the network will work with agencies on a variety of programs.

The survey, conducted by Gerontological Services Inc., consisted primarily of a detailed questionnaire sent to 5,000 seniors in Alhambra, Altadena, Arcadia, Duarte, El Monte, Monrovia, Pasadena, Rosemead, San Gabriel, San Marino, Sierra Madre, South Pasadena and Temple City.

Members of the target group were 65 or older with gross household incomes of roughly $20,000. Limiting the group to people in the $20,000 income range was done to avoid a disproportionate number of people with very high or very low incomes, said Monika White, the network's research and information services coordinator. White said that 1,000 seniors, or one-fifth of those who were sent the survey, responded to the questionnaire, a high percentage for this type of survey.

"The greatest need was for information and referral services," she said. "The seniors want newsletters, lectures on health-related topics such as health prevention and explanations of Medicare regulations. Others indicated interest in lectures on legal matters and money management.

"We got many comments from people saying they don't know about available services so one of our big thrusts will be to coordinate services and provide information to people."

The survey found that although many services are available in the San Gabriel Valley, many seniors either don't know about them, cannot get to them or cannot afford them.

"The most adequate services were doctors, hospitals and some senior centers," White said. Transportation was mixed--72% of those responding drive every day but for the ones who don't, transportation is a big problem."

The survey also showed that seniors want services close to home that they can afford.

According to White, the typical respondent was a woman of about 75 who lived with a spouse. The couple owned their own home. The woman regarded herself as in better health than her peers.

When asked what they regarded as problems, more than half of the respondents listed crime. One-third cited housing and financial issues. Most found no lack of leisure and recreational opportunities.

The response varied by community, with Altadena, Monrovia, Duarte and Pasadena residents identifying the widest range of problems for the elderly. San Marino respondents had the least demand for all types of services; seniors from Duarte, Temple City, Monrovia, San Gabriel and Altadena wanted more services.

Nearly half said they benefit from preventive health services, but only 9% said they need such heavy support services as care for the terminally ill or nursing home care.

The survey concluded that San Gabriel Valley seniors represent the same diverse characteristics as seniors elsewhere and that problems and needs exist for everyone, regardless of age, income or health.

The Senior Care Network's next step will be to compile a computer list of available services and coordinate with agencies providing those services, White said.

"The survey is a way to begin our program because coordinating is our focus," she said. "We have the funds to embark on the planning process and to buy a computer to keep current with resources so we can conduct research. The computer also enables us to keep track of programs and clients."

The network, organized seven months ago, is the best-funded planning program in the country, Simmons said.

It has an annual budget of $1 million, largely the result of the generosity of the late Margaret Bundy Scott, who left money to Huntington Memorial Hospital to work with a variety of people in need of long-term care.

"The hospital could have done any number of things with the money but decided to use the funds to set up the network," White said.

"With this money ($679,000 annually from the Scott estate and the rest from the hospital) we can plan instead of just respond to a need. We are funded to build from the ground up instead of responding piecemeal to needs.

"We don't make grants because we are a planning and development program. It is all aimed at making one's old age a good thing."

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