PARIS — More than half of the seniors responding to the AARP Age Friendly Community survey said they were not likely to remain in the community as they age, with even more citing taxes prohibiting them from remaining in their homes.
A total of 1,000 surveys were mailed out during the summer to Paris residents aged 50 and older, who were registered voters. There 316 surveys completed, with 239 returned due to wrong addresses, no mail receptacles and other reasons.
“The overall response was slightly over 48 percent, which is great for a written survey,” said attorney Sarah Glynn, who’s spearheaded the initiative.
The data was compiled by Portland Research Group and put into a 54-page report. It was paid with an $10,000 grant the town was awarded as being part of AARP and the World Health Organization’s Age Friendly Community initiative, which focuses on seniors’ needs to help them age in place.
The were 35 AARP-based questions included in the survey, with additional questions of what three things residents need to stay in their home and what services do seniors need.
There were 189 respondents who said they’re not likely to remain in the community with 37 not sure and 79 who answered likely. Sixty percent of respondents who provided additional comments said the biggest issue they’re facing is taxes.
“The one clear finding is that we need lower taxes in the town of Paris,” Glynn said. “If people are going to stay in their homes, right now they can’t afford it. That was the overwhelming reason.”
She noted it might have been bad timing with the town because the surveys were sent out around the same time as the tax bills after the town-wide reevaluation. The next category of why people can’t remain in their homes as they age is affordable housing, which 16 percent of people cited.
About 80 percent of respondents said it was important for them to stay in the community, while roughly 20 percent answered it wasn’t very important.
“People want to stay where they are,” Glynn said.
The people who answered the questions varied with 107 male and 188 females. Ninety-eight percent of those polled are year-round residents. There were 106 people who were younger than 65, 102 ranging between ages 65 and 74 and 78 respondents were 75 and older.
“The education level was interesting that 28 percent had a high school [diploma], 23 percent post high school education or degrees,” she said. “Access to the Internet is decent but there are a lot of our older folks who don’t go online and still need that personal interaction.”
There were 114 respondents who are working, one who’s unemployed and the remaining 172 are retired or not in the labor force. Household incomes included 84 who made less than $20,000 annually, 105 making between $20,000 but less than $50,000, and 83 garnering $50,000 or more.
Good news from the survey is more than 90 percent felt the community has a well-maintained hospital and good health care professionals, Glynn said.
She explained the focus of the initiative.
“The whole project of Age Friendly Community is it looks at eight domains of livability,” Glynn said. “It’s everything from health care to affordable housing to transportation, social inclusion, job opportunities, community involvement, volunteer opportunities, all of that are areas that we will be looking at going forward to try and identify what we need to improve in the community.”
She said focus groups will be set up for each of the eight domains and Paris will have a ninth – taxes.