Guest Blogger: Tony DiNuzzo, Ph.D., Director, ETGEC-C

Recently, I was reading an article from a small newspaper in Ohio, The News-Herald celebrating 40 years since the forming of the Lake County Council on Aging (Bonchak, 2012). The Council, based on a former non-profit organization, was formed based on an official charter issued by the State of Ohio. The article described in clear detail what has been accomplished in these 40 years to track and address the needs of the area’s senior citizens. The ultimate goal was always to improve their quality of life. I was very impressed with, not just the longevity of such a council, but their commitment to the community’s older residents. They addressed the need to establish the first senior centers in several towns within the county, expanded the Meals on Wheels program, formed a caregivers support group, and a medical equipment and supply program for seniors, just to name a few accomplishments.

And of course it got me thinking about what do or do not do for the seniors in Galveston County, particularly those in the city of Galveston, still reeling from the devastating effects of hurricane Ike from four years ago. For example, the city has yet to repair or replace the Multipurpose Senior Center, and the ugly, much publicized debate about public housing and how do we provide adequate housing for our local older citizens if we do not seem to value them. Do we have any idea of the true needs of the senior citizens of Galveston? Do we know how they feel about their lives, their health, transportation, and nutrition needs, effects of crime, lingering effects from hurricane Ike, housing needs, and the very real threat of isolation, as well as, fostering any positive aspects related to their quality of life?

Almost 20 years ago, the UTMB Sealy Center on Aging conducted a needs assessment survey of a random sample of Galveston County residents, 75 years of age or older. We found extremely interesting and helpful information on attitudes and needs for hurricane evacuation and the extremely negative effects of crime where 75% did not feel safe leaving their homes after dark. More than 50% were unable to walk five blocks. There were huge transportation limitations, lack of adequate social support, and inability to cook or go shopping. On a positive side, we found over 70% considered their lives to be adequately active and involved in their community. We developed a report of this data and used it to help guide county officials in utilizing available funds to address these issues. It is unknown just how much of an impact this project had, but it opened my eyes to some of the very real needs of our older seniors.

It is time to begin thinking about a follow-up survey or some means to connect with the senior citizens of Galveston County. I do not believe we have strong evidence of the needs, attitudes and conditions which are affecting their quality of life. A lot could have changed in 20 years since the last survey. What do you think we’ll find out?


Bonchak, J. Lake County Council on Aging celebrates 40 years. News-Herald, 10-11-12 (