• A Great City for Older Adults


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A Great City for Older Adults:
An AARP Survey on the Strengths and
Challenges of Growing Old in Burlington
Report Prepared by Katherine Bridges
Copyright © 2007
AARP
Knowledge Management
601 E Street NW
Washington, DC 20049
www.aarp.org/research/
Reprinting with Permission
AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have
independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them
and society as a whole. We produce AARP The Magazine, published bimonthly; AARP
Bulletin, our monthly newspaper; AARP Segunda Juventud, our bimonthly magazine in
Spanish and English; NRTA Live & Learn, our quarterly newsletter for 50+ educators;
and our website, www.aarp.org. AARP Foundation is our affiliated charity that provides
security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from
thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50
states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Acknowledgements
AARP staff from the Vermont State Office and Knowledge Management, as well as
consultants from The Snelling Center for Government contributed to the design and
implementation of this study. Special thanks go to AARP staff including Greg Marchildon
and Jennifer Wallace-Brodeur, from the AARP Vermont State Office who provided
guidance in the design of the study and reviews of the report. Knowledge Management
staff contributing to the success of this study include Jennifer Sauer, Rachelle Cummins,
Anita Ritter, Linda Barrett, Cassandra Burton, Terri Guengerich, and Darlene Matthews.
Glen McRae and Heidi Klein from The Snelling Center for Government provided
invaluable consultation for the questionnaire development. Woelfel Research, Inc.
conducted the interviews and prepared the data for analysis. Katherine Bridges,
Knowledge Management, managed all aspects of the project for AARP and wrote the
report with assistance from Jennifer Leslie. For more information, contact Katherine
Bridges at (207) 899-2094.
REPORT ORGANIZATION
Survey Highlights........................................................................................................PAGE 1
Background .................................................................................................................PAGE 3
NEIGHBORHOODS AND HOUSING .................................................... PAGE 5
MOBILITY AND TRANSPORTATION ................................................. PAGE 14
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT .......................................................... PAGE 25
Summary of Findings................................................................................................PAGE 30
METHODOLOGY........................................................................................................PAGE 33
RESPONDENT DEMOGRAPHICS.............................................................................PAGE 35
APPENDIX A: Data Tables .......................................................................................PAGE 36
APPENDIX B: Annotated Questionnaire ................................................................PAGE 55
A Great City for Older Adults: An AARP Survey on the Strengths and
Challenges of Growing Old in Burlington
SURVEY HIGHLIGHTS
This community survey, part of The Burlington Livable Communities Project, was
conducted on behalf of AARP by Woelfel Research, Inc. Eight hundred Burlington
residents age 45 and older participated in 20-minute telephone interviews between
November 1 and November 14, 2006, on a number of issues regarding housing, mobility,
and community engagement. Some of the top findings from the survey include:
Neighborhoods & Housing
Eight out of ten respondents rate their neighborhood as an excellent or good place
for older people to live, and a similar number say they would like to stay in their
current home and neighborhood as long as they can.
Financial concerns, such as affording property taxes, rent, and utilities, topped the
list of items that residents feel threaten their ability to stay where they are, but a
significant number are also concerned about factors that could limit their
independence, such as no longer being able to drive, and getting help with chores
and personal care.
If they could no longer stay in their current homes or wanted to move, a location
that enabled the greatest amount of independence, such as being able to schedule
their own daily activities and having access to transportation, shopping, and
services, would be most desirable for a new setting.
Mobility & Transportation
The majority of Burlington residents age 45+ are quite mobile, getting out of their
homes and going somewhere, such as shopping, visiting, or exercising at least five
times a week. However, residents age 75+ get out much less frequently, as do
those with lower incomes and education.
Three-quarters of Burlington residents 45+ use a personal vehicle as their primary
mode of transportation when going somewhere, although considerable numbers
also walk, bike, and get a ride from someone else on occasion. Only 30 percent of
residents 45+ have used the bus, and most of these do not use it regularly, even
though few have any complaints about using it.
Despite the high reliance on personal vehicles to get around in the City, most
Burlington residents age 45+ do not think it would be difficult to remain in their
current neighborhood if they were no longer able to drive. However, most agree
that more help from family and friends; more driving alternatives, such as
community vans and volunteer drivers; and more delivery services for groceries
and prescriptions would make it easier for them to remain in their current
locations.
A Great City for Older Adults: An AARP Survey on the Strengths and 1
Challenges of Growing Old in Burlington
Most residents who sometimes walk around the City think sidewalks are for the
most part quite accessible. However, the results show there are opportunities for
improvements, such as improved lighting and maintenance, better clearing of
snow, ice, and debris, better policing to ensure drivers stop at crosswalks, and
restricting the sidewalks for pedestrian use only.
Community Engagement
Most Burlington residents age 45+ are well-connected to others in their
community. In addition to their regular contact with family, friends, and
neighbors, about sixty percent of residents age 45+ are volunteers and/or belong to
a social, religious, recreational, or special interest group. Wealthier and college-
educated residents are more likely to be connected to the community in each of
these ways.
The majority of residents age 45+ feel Burlington has convenient places for them
to participate in public meetings and events, and that it has well-run community
centers, recreation centers, parks and other places where older people can
socialize. In addition, most respondents, particularly older residents, agree they
are very well-aware of activities for older adults that are available in Burlington.
However, a substantial number of residents report having barriers to attending
events in the City, such as cost and transportation.
Residents age 45+ believe it is important for the City to offer community
engagement opportunities such as educational offerings, waterfront activities,
volunteer opportunities, and recreational activities for older adults. However, each
of these activities is more appealing to those who are younger, wealthier and
college-educated.
Overall, the survey shows Burlington has an appealing environment for most of its 45-
plus residents, and they seem inclined to stay because of it. However, there are
opportunities for making it better, particularly in anticipation of a growing older
population. In addition, below the top-line findings, there are many socio-economic and
neighborhood differences that should be considered to ensure the City is a livable one for
all of its residents today and as they grow older.
A Great City for Older Adults: An AARP Survey on the Strengths and 2
Challenges of Growing Old in Burlington
BACKGROUND
As most people know, the United States is an aging society. The percentage of older
adults in the country is expected to rise rapidly over the next 30 years. Vermont—and
Burlington specifically—are no exceptions. In 2003, Vermont’s population was about
619,000, with about 13 percent of residents being age 65 and older. In 2015, the 65-plus
population will make up 15 percent of the state’s population, and by 2025, it will be 20
percent.1,2 In Burlington, the 65-plus population makes up about 11 percent of the total
population, and this percentage is likely to grow as it will across the State and U.S. as
residents live longer, healthier lives.
In 2005, AARP published a report on creating livable communities, such that enable
individuals to age successfully.3 The AARP Report: Beyond 50.05 clearly identifies a
livable community as one “that has affordable and appropriate housing, supportive
community features and services, and adequate mobility options, which together facilitate
personal independence and the engagement of residents in civic and social life.”
The Burlington Livable Community Project is a collaborative approach to planning for
the demands an aging population will place on Burlington as a city, its residents and its
resources. The project is led by AARP Vermont in cooperation with the city and a group
of some 30 community stakeholder organizations. The multi-year effort aims to provide
direction, assess needs and resources and develop recommendations in the areas of
housing, transportation and mobility and community engagement.
In support of this Project, two major data collection activities have taken place, which
collectively have included nearly 1000 of the City’s middle-aged and older adults. First,
a series of focus groups, facilitated by The Snelling Center for Government, were held in
September 2006 at various locations in Burlington. Residents age 50 and older were
invited to attend these groups and participate in discussions around questions such as:
What are your current experiences in Burlington in meeting your changing needs as you
grow older? What is needed to be in place to make Burlington your city of choice for
living as an older adult?
1
Projections of the Population, By Age and Sex, of States: 1995 to 2025. United States Census Bureau.
http://www.census.gov/population/projections/state/stpjage.txt
2
Projections of the Total Population of States: 1995 to 2025. United States Census Bureau.
http://www.census.gov/population/projections/state/stpjpop.txt
3
Kochera, A., Straight, A., & Guterbock, T. (2005). Beyond 50.05: A report to the nation on livable communities:
Creating environments for successful aging. Washington, DC: AARP.
A Great City for Older Adults: An AARP Survey on the Strengths and 3
Challenges of Growing Old in Burlington
A community survey was the second data collection activity conducted to support The
Burlington Livable Community Project. This telephone survey of 800 Burlington
residents age 45 and older was conducted by Woelfel Research, Inc. of Dunn Loring, VA,
between November 1 and November 14, 2006.4 The survey collected information from
respondents on their opinions and experiences in Burlington on transportation and
mobility options, housing and neighborhoods, and community engagement opportunities,
as well as tested some of the themes that emerged from the focus groups in each of these
areas. These resident interviews provide insights into the needs, preferences, and
expectations of Burlington residents as they continue to make their home in the City as
they grow older.
The findings from both the focus groups and the community survey will be shared with
Burlington’s City Council and Mayor’s Office and will form the basis of the
recommendations that project stakeholders will make to ensure that Burlington remains a
great city for older adults.
4
See Methodology section for full details on survey execution. The annotated questionnaire appended to this report
contains responses to all survey questions.
A Great City for Older Adults: An AARP Survey on the Strengths and 4
Challenges of Growing Old in Burlington
Neighborhoods and Housing
Current Living Arrangements
Residents age 45 and older in all parts of Burlington were included in this community
survey. Of those responding, about one-third say they live in the New North End, one-
quarter say they live in the South End, and about one-fifth reported being from the Old
North End. The remaining residents identified their neighborhoods as being either in the
Hill Section or Downtown.
Percentage of Respondents Living in Each Neighborhood
(N=800)
New North End
35% Downtown
9%
Hill Section
14%
South End
24% Old North End
18%
More than three-quarters (77%) of Burlington residents age 45-plus own their homes, and
about one-quarter (23%) are renters. Those who are homeowners primarily live in single
family homes (77%), while 16 percent own condominiums, and the remaining
homeowners live in duplexes, or some other multi-unit structure. Among the renters,
about one-third is in some type of senior housing, while the remainder is in non-age
restricted housing.
Not surprisingly, homeowners age 45+ in Burlington tend to be higher income residents
and those with college educations. Homeowners predominantly live in the New North
End, South End and Hill Section, while renters tend to be clustered in the Downtown
area, and the Old North End region being more evenly split (See Table 1).
Currently, over half (52%) of respondents live with a spouse or partner and four in ten
(38%) live alone. The likelihood of living alone increases with respondent age (27% 45-
54; 35% 55-64; 42% 65-74; 53% 75+). Residents who live alone are significantly more
likely to live Downtown (71%) or in the Old North End (50%), then they are in other
areas of the City.
A Great City for Older Adults: An AARP Survey on the Strengths and 5
Challenges of Growing Old in Burlington
Among those living alone, about half (48%) say they might consider homesharing, or
bringing someone of their choosing into their home to provide them with services to
enable them to continue living in their home. However, more than four in ten living
alone (44%) said they would not consider this option. The willingness to consider
homesharing declines with respondent age, with those ages 45-54 being twice as likely to
consider this option than those who are 75 and older (48% 45-54; 43% 55-64; 31% 65-
74; 25% 75+). In addition, residents living in the New North End are substantially more
likely than those living in the Old North End to consider homesharing (42% vs. 24%).
Neighborhood Safety
When asked to consider the how safe they feel when walking in their neighborhood in the
evening, about three-quarters of Burlingtonians age 45-plus say they would rate their
neighborhood security as excellent or good. Most respondents also say the amount of
crime in their neighborhood has stayed the same over the past 12 months. However,
there are marked differences in these opinions based on where respondents live. For
instance, nearly half of respondents in the Old North End, and nearly as many Downtown
residents, rate their neighborhoods’ security as fair or poor. Similarly, residents in these
two areas as well as the Hill Section are more apt to report there has been an increase in
crime in their neighborhood in the past year. Similar differences of opinion appear
according to income and education (See Table 2).
Safety Rating of Neighborhood Perceived Change in Amount of Crime
(Walking in Evening) in Neighborhood in Last Year
(N=800) (N=800)
Good
39% Stayed the Increased
Fair 20%
same
16%
66%
Poor
7% Not sure
8%
Not sure
Decreased
Excellent 4%
6%
35%
A Great City for Older Adults: An AARP Survey on the Strengths and 6
Challenges of Growing Old in Burlington
Neighborhood Appeal
To assess their desire to remain in their neighborhoods as they age, survey respondents
were asked how strongly they agreed or disagreed with the statement: “What I’d really
like to do is remain in my neighborhood for as long as possible.” Nearly nine out of ten
agreed with this statement--most of them strongly. Moreover, eight out of ten say they
would rate their neighborhood as an excellent for good place for older people to live.
Desire to Remain in Current Rating of Neighborhood as a
Neighborhood as Long as Possible Place for Older People to Live
(N=800) (N=800)
Good
Strongly
47%
agree
79%
Fair
13%
Strongly Somewhat
Poor
disagree agree Excellent 5%
5% 11% 34%
Somewhat
disagree
5%
Older residents more often rate their neighborhood as an excellent or good place for older
people to live, and not surprisingly, they are also more likely to express a desire to remain
in their current neighborhoods as long as possible. (See Table 3.)
Similar to differences noted previously, there appears to be less favorability in one’s
neighborhood among those living in the Old North End in comparison to other areas,
particularly as a place respondents want to stay for as long as possible. (See Table 3.)
Respondents give a wide variety of reasons for wanting to stay in their neighborhoods,
including proximity to services and activities, being close to people they like, and general
familiarity and comfort with the area. However, the top reasons given by respondents for
wanting to remain in their neighborhoods are that it is close to shopping and that they
enjoy the people in the area, including their friends. Safety is another important factor
for one in five residents who want to remain in their neighborhood.
A Great City for Older Adults: An AARP Survey on the Strengths and 7
Challenges of Growing Old in Burlington
Reasons for Wanting to Remain in Same Neighborhood
(n=716)
Close to shopping 29%
Enjoy people in area 28%
Friends 28%
Safety 19%
Lived here long time 16%
Family 15%
Close to downtown 14%
Proximity to lake/views 12%
Good transportation 11%
Recreation 10%
Proximity to bike path 8%
Convenience 8%
Quiet/peaceful location 8%
Place of worship 6%
Cost of living 5%
Cultural activities 5%
Like weather/climate 5%
Cost of housing 5%
Good health services 4%
Comfortable/cozy 4%
Good gov't services 3%
University offerings 2%
Employment/job 2%
Other 6%
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50%
With only ten percent (n=65) indicating they would not like to remain in their
community, it is difficult to provide a true assessment of what might motivate people to
leave. However, among those respondents who indicated a lack of desire to remain
where they are, crime and financial burdens are the most prevalent reasons given for their
desire to move from their neighborhoods.5 Nearly half (46%) of the respondents from the
Old North End who do not want to stay in their neighborhoods cite crime as the reason
for wanting to leave.
5
Additional responses are noted in annotated questionnaire in Appendix B.
A Great City for Older Adults: An AARP Survey on the Strengths and 8
Challenges of Growing Old in Burlington
Top Reasons for Not Wanting to Remain in Same Neighborhood
(n=65)
Crime 34%
Property taxes 14%
Cost of housing 11%
Medical care/health services 8%
Taxes (unspecified) 8%
Cost of living 6%
Want to move (unspecified) 6%
Gov't services 6%
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50%
Desire to Remain in Their Homes
A similar percentage of Burlington residents expressing a desire to remain in their
neighborhoods also express a desire to remain in their homes. Eight in ten respondents
strongly agree with the statement “What I’d really like to do is remain in my home for as
long as possible,” further indicating the strong desire among most older Burlingtonians
to remain in their community.
Desire to Remain in Current Home As Long as Possible
(N=800)
Somewhat
Strongly agree
agree
79%
11%
Somewhat
disagree
5%
Strongly
disagree
5%
More residents age 65 and older express a desire to remain in their homes for as long as
possible compared to the younger residents surveyed (94% vs. 86%). Residents who
have high school educations or less are also more likely than those with higher educations
to want to remain where they are for as long as possible (93% vs. 88%). Similar to what
was reported about remaining in their neighborhoods, residents in the Old North End are
the least likely to want to remain in their homes for as long as possible (84% vs. 92%
South End and 91% New North End, Hill Section).
When asked what some of the reasons are that they would want to remain in the same
home, respondents most often say because their home is in a convenient location.
A Great City for Older Adults: An AARP Survey on the Strengths and 9
Challenges of Growing Old in Burlington
However, an affinity for their neighbors and their surroundings are also important factors
in wanting to remain where they are. Structural features of the home fall farther down
the list, but having the right size home is a reason for wanting to stay for one in five
respondents.
Reasons for Wanting to Remain in Same Home
(n=713)
Convenient location 45%
Neighbors 30%
Like the yard/view 20%
Right size/number of rooms 20%
Easy to get around in 16%
Affordable 16%
Allows independent living 13%
Lived here long time 12%
Too difficult to move 9%
Comfortable/cozy 8%
Low maintenance 7%
Mortgage paid off 5%
Safety 4%
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50%
Interestingly, having a convenient location is more important for younger residents than it
is for those ages 75 and older (45% 45-54; 51% 55-64; 46% 65-74 vs. 34% 75+), while
those in the older age group are more likely to want to remain where they are because it
allows them to live independently (17% 75+ vs. 9% 45-54; 14% 55-64; 12% 65-74).
The most notable differences in the reasons given for wanting to remain in their homes
occur between neighborhoods. While having a convenient location is noted most often by
residents in all neighborhoods, there is significant variation thereafter. For instance,
residents living Downtown are the most likely to mention the ease in which they can get
around in their homes, but are the least likely to note their surroundings (yard, trees, views,
etc.) as appealing aspects of their homes. Neighbors are a top-mentioned reason for
wanting to stay where they are for residents in the New North End, South End, and Hill
Section, but less so for those living Downtown or in the Old North End. (See Table 4.)
For the one in ten respondents (n=69) who indicated they may not want to stay in their
current homes as long as possible, their reasons for wanting to move are less varied by
demographic factors, and largely revolve around structural features, such as size of their
home and its surroundings, or financial barriers.
A Great City for Older Adults: An AARP Survey on the Strengths and 10
Challenges of Growing Old in Burlington
The only notable demographic difference in the reasons for wanting to move is that
higher income residents are more likely to be dissatisfied with the size of their current
home compared to lower income residents (46% $75K+ and 30% $35K-$75K vs. 8%


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