Reaching the Senior Population
The ranks of America’s seniors are predicted to grow to an astounding 31 percent of the country’s population by 2030. That’s right; nearly a third of the US population will be past the age of 65 in just a few short years. As the future arrives, most of these seniors will have one common goal: to remain independent for as long as possible. And for those individuals who haven’t attained senior status yet but need assistance due to disability, remaining independent is a lifelong objective.
A local area agency that helps to meet the needs of seniors and individuals with disabilities is SWIRCA & More. SWIRCA & More serves the eight-county area of Dubois, Gibson, Perry, Pike, Posey, Spencer, Vanderburgh, and Warrick counties, providing information and resources to help individuals maintain an independent lifestyle. During their 40-year history, SWIRCA & More has developed a comprehensive list of resources and services that provide information to older adults, disabled individuals, professionals, and caregivers. Known as the Senior Resource Guide, this publication lists the many agencies and resources in the eight-county area that provide services to help seniors and the disabled remain independent.
The Need for a Website Directory
The Senior Resource Guide has traditionally been a printed guide distributed through SWIRCA in the eight-county area. Prior to the resource guide being made available electronically, much of the resource information was not available in any one location in an electronic format. Users would have to go to many, many different web addresses to gather resource information. A user might do a search on Assisted Living facilities in Evansville and find some of the available facilities, but a comprehensive updated list was not available. Many resources weren’t even available online, such as financial and prescription assistance or food pantries. In this case, gathering information about such services would involve multiple location stops or connection with others who had knowledge of such programs, which led to a number of individuals being unaware of services that were available. Additionally, electronic searches didn’t provide results listed by county or service, and although other resource guides were available electronically, none exclusively targeted the senior population. With the variety of individuals using the printed version of the Guide to locate activities and services, SWIRCA recognized that a digital version would allow for changes in information as they became available. A grant from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention made a digital version of the Guide possible. In creating a digital version of the Guide, SWIRCA & More, along with University of Southern Indiana’s Center for Healthy Aging and Wellness, selected Lieberman Technologies to develop the website that would serve to deliver the information previously only available in printed form.
It was important for the online Senior Resource Guide to be searchable by location and category, and that the search results would supply the user with detailed provider information. Search results also provide hyperlinks to take users directly to a resource web page, as well as hyperlinks to directions and locations of resources using a map feature. Search results are also available in a printer-friendly format, and a version of the entire Guide is also available on the website in a PDF format.
Spanish Website Importance
With a growing Spanish-speaking population in the eight-county area, SWIRCA & More also sought for the Senior Resource Guide to be made available in Spanish. The addition of a Spanish-language component makes the Guide more accessible to elderly and disabled members of the community, as well as their caregivers and family members, for whom Spanish is their primary language.
To help determine who in the community uses the digital Guide, Lieberman installed Google Analytics, which will help to track visits to the homepage, searchers, and sites visited from the Guide’s search results. In addition to the standard site metrics, Google Analytics was configured to track demographic and usage data on key user events. This information will allow SWIRCA to continue to develop and fine-tune the Guide’s offerings. Lieberman Technologies also trained the USI and SWIRCA & More grant team on the input of data and website updates for maintenance activities. As a result of this training, provider information and details were collected and inputted by the USI and SWIRCA & More grant team, including contact information, address, history, and photos where available.
Katie Ehlman, Director for the Center for Healthy Aging and Wellness at USI, found that working with Lieberman Technologies to establish the online Senior Resource Guide was key in arriving at the desired outcome. According to Ehlman,“The skill set Lieberman brought to the table allowed us to design a site with functionality, hdata base management capacity, and sustainability that far outreached our initial thoughts.” Once the Guide launched, the USI/SWIRCA team found that developing it as a responsive website was extremely important, as nearly 20% of users access the site via mobile or tablet.
Today’s older adults are not like the older adults of previous generations. As recently as a generation ago, retirement meant a permanent vacation. Today’s seniors tend to be more engaged and active than in years past, and seek to remain independent for as long as possible. The online Senior Resource Guide will help these active seniors and their families and caregivers to access senior-centric information that is kept up-to-date and is available anywhere there is internet access. Says Ehlman, “Because of Lieberman Technologies’ expertise and the collaboration of efforts between SWIRCA & More and USI, we are confident the Senior Resource Guide website will continue to meet the growing needs of our Southwest Indiana community.”