McDaniel 'Aging in Place' survey finds what Carroll seniors want

Commissioner Stephen Wantz shared opening remarks at the McDaniel College Center for the Study of Aging "Aging in Place" update on May 23, 2018 at the college's Decker Center.

As graduates leaving commencement flooded the McDaniel College parking lot on May 23, a different, smaller group gathered to discuss another one of life’s chapters in the school’s Decker Center.

Diane Martin, director of the college’s Center for the Study of Aging, presented results of a local survey on “Aging in Place” — finding economical, realistic ways to stay at home as they go through the aging process — and how Carroll County residents want to achieve that, to a group of about 60 individuals. County Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, both the Carroll County Bureau and Commission of Aging and Disabilities, and local residents attended and shared comments.


“A few population projections are really in order to understand imminent and projected issues for seniors,” said Commission of Aging and Disabilities Chair Hermine Saunders before introducing Martin.

“The 60-plus population is burgeoning,” she said, “not only in Carroll County but throughout the State of Maryland and throughout the country. But just in the State of Maryland, from 2015 we had almost 1.2 million seniors 60-plus years of age. By 2030, we are going to have 1.7 million in the State of Maryland. That's a dramatic rise in just 15 years — and you may be hearing in the news how there are fewer and fewer babies being born, so really we are going to need some help.

“In Carroll County the numbers are equally as drastic,” Saunders said. “In 2013 [there were] about 37,400 seniors 60-plus; by 2030 there will be almost 59,000. That's an increase of 22,000 people.”

And low-income assistance and luxury senior living “bookend” the spectrum of housing options for aging people she said, but options in the middle are slim.

Martin’s study, which has been conducted over a four-year period with more than 1,600 respondents, measures the growing needs of the moderate-income population in between those bookends.

“We can all expect to live between another 15 and 20 years,” Martin said of baby boomers. “And how are we going to age well over that time frame? It’s not our parents’, grandparents’ or great-grandparents’ generation of aging. We are much more active, much more involved. We are consumers now.”

As consumers, she said, it will be up to the new aging population to tell entrepreneurs what services and support they are looking for. And according to the data she accrued, almost 94 percent of Carroll County residents want to age in place.

Entrepreneurs can deliver those answers by examining the seven dimensions of wellness, she explained: physical, emotional, social, spiritual, vocational or occupational, and intellectual wellness.

“For a fall risk we aren't going to do very well aging in our own homes,” she said. “So what supports do we have in our community for increasing our agility?”

About 11.5 percent of respondents said they would be interested in a bone builders program, 25 percent in organized walks, 14 percent in swimming and six percent in dance classes.

In terms of emotional wellness, Martin said currently 6.5 percent of respondents are treated for depression, 5 percent for anxiety, 2.5 percent for insomnia, and 1.1 percent for dementia. Although the majority of the respondents were under the age of 75, she said, putting them in the aging category of “young-old” — versus what she classified as “old-old” or “oldest-old” — the needs for geriatric psychological services will be changing as the community changes.

A potential way to get more geriatric specialists in the field is through the state’s Healthy People 2020 intiative, which launched in December 2010 and states on its website one of its goals is to “promote quality of life, healthy development and healthy behaviors across all life stages.”

Regarding social wellness, Martin’s survey found 13.65 percent of respondents are interested in reading and discussion groups, 13 percent are interested in hobbies and crafts, and 22 percent are interested in organized trips, like to musuems.

Regarding spiritual wellness, the survey found 18 percent of respondents are interested in religious activities and a little more than 13 percent are interested in yoga and meditation.


When it came to discussing vocational and occupational wellness and intellectual wellness, however, that’s when Martin got comments from the audience.

Charles Wheatley, 83, is a 1954 McDaniel alumnus and has been a delegate to the Maryland General Assembly and Maryland Constitutional Convention, member of the Baltimore City Council, secretary of the Maryland State Teachers’ Association, co-director of the Learning Institute for Excellence, and professor at Carroll Community College.

Vocational and occupational wellness “to me is the key to all the other wellnesses,” he said at the presentation. “My wife and I are working on a project now called ‘Redefining Retirement.’ I call it ‘Second Time Around.’

“We have now pretty substantial data that indicates we’ve retired too early,” Wheatley said, “that entertainment, relaxation and travel only goes too far. We can probably show all the other wellnesses are adversely affected by early retirement [and that there are benefits] to making work something desirable, not undesirable.”

He said he especially hopes to connect with people who believe retirement is the end goal.

“When I was young,” he said, “I was like ‘Please let me retire before I expire.’ I now say, ‘Please let me expire before I retire.’ All wellness, I’m convinced that’s the key. That the mind, body and spirit — everything likes work. Work is not a dirty word.”

Survey results found that 14.24 percent of respondents are interested in volunteer opportunities, and about 7 percent of respondents are interested in intergenerational opportunities — like tutoring kids, hiring young people for help around the house, or teaching skills they’ve accrued over the years.

In the same vein, a couple attendees said that continuing education in the classroom has been extremely beneficial to them and they want to make sure that others in the community are aware that it is easy to do.

“For $30 [you can take] a whole class at Carroll Community College,” said Nan Nelson, who is turning 77 next week and lives in senior apartments in Westminster. “There are some groupies from Bob Young’s [history] class. Half the class is older and have lived the history, and the other half is young, and seeing it through our eyes.”


Nelson’s friend, Sydney Shure, 84, said she has been taking classes at the college since 2006, graduating in 2012 at 78 years old, and continues because of the cognitive benefits she has experienced.

She didn’t go to classes this semester but hopes to go back in the fall, and said she came to the presentation because she tries to utilize all the resources the county has for seniors and share that information with others.

“What I tried to do,” she said, “I tried to educate people on what’s available — like HUD — [and] that you could go to the Lions Club for glasses.

“There’s a lot of help out there, people just don’t know it,” Shure said.