LOWLINC began in early 2014 when three long-time residents of Lake of the Woods (Mary-Jane Atwater, Jeff Flynn and Joe Sakole) began regular meetings to discuss how we as a community could better enable LOW seniors remain in their homes for as long as possible.
During 2014, we explored the services currently available through LOW and outside organizations, and in the fall we conducted a needs assessment—a community-wide mail and online survey designed to determine what gaps exist and which services LOW residents anticipated needing. Our activities also included the following:
- Researched the “aging-in-community village” model
- Met with representatives of nearby “villages”
- Spoke with representatives of Woods Cares, the LOW Church, Lions, Lioness, AARP and other organizations
- Met with Orange County’s director of social services and the director of Aging Together
- Kept the LOW community informed with articles in Lake Currents
- Joined the Village to Village Network, an association of the more than 150 villages in the United States
The survey results demonstrated a strong interest in the “village” model. As a result, we have formed LOWLINC (LOW-Living Independently in Our Community), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with the sole mission to enable LOW’s older residents to remain safely and independently at home for as long as possible.
2014 Aging-in-Community Survey Results
In October 2014, the Aging-in-Community Working Group (precursor to the LOW Board) mailed a questionnaire to the 3,800 property owners of Lake of the Woods. The mailing also included FAQs about the “aging-in-community village” model. The questionnaire was also available through Survey Monkey online.
We received 635 completed questionnaires (16.7% of the 3,800 that were mailed), along with many thoughtful and helpful comments and suggestions. A summary of the findings follows:
- Residents who answered the question about services they anticipated needing in the future identified referral to pre-screened vendors as the top need, followed by handyman/odd jobs, yard work, transportation, coordination of professional services, and computer assistance.
- We live in a community of residents willing to volunteer their time to help others. Two hundred forty-six (246) respondents (close to 40%) indicated they could volunteer one or more services to help seniors and those with physical and cognitive challenges, with daily assistance and check in, friendly visits and transportation topping the list.
- Would LOW residents be willing to pay for support services if it meant they could stay in their homes for as long as possible? Of the 588 who answered the question, 53% said “yes,” 37% said “It depends,” and 10% said “No.”
- Of the residents willing to pay for support services, 61% would pay $50 or more per month, 29% would pay $30 to $40; and 10 % said $20 or less.
- In response to the question about use of existing services, 10.5% of respondents indicated they are receiving or have received support. Outside paid providers were most frequently mentioned, followed by the LOW Church, other churches and Woods Cares.
- When asked to indicate the ages of their household members, the category of residents ages 65-74 were the largest group, followed by households with members 75-84, 55-64, 85+, 45-54 and younger than 45.
- 209 respondents provided additional comments or suggestions, and we received several letters expressing opinions about the village model or offering information about other aging-in-community villages. The majority of comments expressing an opinion about the village concept (more than 50) were supportive, with such comments as “great effort,” “very welcome,” and “hope something comes of this.” Those who voiced opposition (there were fewer than 10) cited existing “free” support services, their opinion that the only gap in current services is communicating about them, and concerns about those unable to pay to participate. Other comments included questions, offers to volunteer, suggestions that transportation is a key need, and fears that the costs could rise, among others. Several respondents thought the initiative was associated with the Lake of the Woods Association, despite our efforts to make it clear that the needs assessment is being conducted and privately financed by us with financial assistance from several others, and has no impact on residents’ assessments and fees.
We began providing services in January 2016, and our first year was one of exciting growth, thanks to our members, the dedication of our trained and vetted volunteers, and the support of donors in our community. Now in our fifth year, we have continued to grow, with transportation, errands, friendly visits and social activities our most frequently requested and completed services, averaging about 330 each month.
As one member put it: "Membership has helped me think that activities I used to do on my own are still possible."