When Boone County was named the best county in the state for seniors to live in, it was because of the quality of life in the county, not the bias of the analysts, Bill Elder assured the crowd at the Senior Center on Tuesday.
“We ranked each of the counties from one to 115 and Boone County came out number one,” said Elder, the director of the Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis at MU Extension, “not because we did the analysis in Boone County, but that is what the data said.”
Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder announced the findings of the first statewide senior study on the final stop of a two-day tour of eight cities. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and the MU Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis worked over the last year to prepare the study. The report is not tied to any new legislation but is intended to help communities plan for the coming spike in the retirement-age population.
“The next few decades will see an explosion in the percentage of Americans over the age of 65,” Kinder said. “One of the biggest challenges we face in Missouri, and across the nation, is having relevant, accurate data in a centralized report.”
Kinder said the report, which tracks all 114 counties and St. Louis based on nine categories, would be updated annually.
“Last fall, the 10 area agencies on aging in Missouri hosted town hall meetings around the state,” said Jean Leonatti, executive director of the Central Missouri Area Agency on Aging. “I think there were about 47 of those (meetings) to gather input from the citizens about the types of information that should be included in a senior report for Missouri.”
The analysts included data collected from a number of sources, such as surveys and government records. The categories covered an array of issues that play a role in quality of life for senior citizens such as economic livelihood, access to transportation, long-term health care and whether they live alone.
In addition to being named as the best county for seniors overall, Boone County ranked number one in the state for the rate of primary care physicians. In 2004, Boone County had a rate of 15.5 primary care physicians per 1,000 people, compared with the statewide average of 5.5.
Crime was Boone County’s weakest area in the report, where it was ranked 93.
Erma Cummingham came in from Jefferson City to hear about the report. She asked Kinder about transportation, saying that health care does not do sick seniors any good if they can’t access it.
“Transportation is a big issue for low income people who don’t have the resources to have an automobile of their own or buy gasoline for one,” Cummingham said after the presentation.
Between 2000 and 2005, the number of seniors in Boone County increased 11.8 percent.
“Past responses to aging and past perceptions of senior adults really no longer work,” Kinder said. “Aging itself is rapidly evolving, forcing us to rethink what it means to grow older.”