WILMINGTON — Two of the larger issues facing older adults in Clinton County are rural transportation and housing, according to findings in a study from the Clinton County Regional Planning Commission (RPC).
“We have to improve accessibility options in Clinton County. The rural nature of Clinton County lends itself to an assortment of health concerns for older adults. Medical specialists are often located outside of the county and requires reliable transportation to arrive at appointments. Social isolation leaves older adults at risk of mental health disorders and accelerates symptoms of dementia,” RPC Executive Director Taylor Stuckert writes in a newly released report.
As reported previously, Clinton County has officially joined the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) Network of Age-Friendly Communities — an action indicating the county is committed to the issue, and will work toward making the community a great place for people of all ages.
Sixty-eight percent of older adults in Clinton County live in areas without affordable public transportation, the report states. On Monday, RPC Associate Director Stephen Crouch gave county commissioners an example of what’s meant by that.
It’s about 11 miles between Sabina and Wilmington. To utilize the Wilmington Transit System, it would cost the Sabina resident $1 per mile. A round-trip is not affordable for a lot of Sabina senior citizens, Crouch said.
Moreover, transportation services for out-of-county medical appointments is really hard to come by, he said.
Presently, the two options are Medicaid through Clinton County Job and Family Services (JFS) vehicles, and the Wilmington Senior Center has some vans for a five-county area. Crouch added its hours are “pretty limited” and the funds are limited, too.
The limited transportation service options tie in with a heath concern of older Clinton Countians.
“The most pressing health need identified by survey respondents was a lack of medical specialists in Clinton County. Only 38 percent of respondents said that their community has enough medical specialists. As a result, many older adults travel to appointments in Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, or Chillicothe,” stated the report.
Regarding the housing issue, Crouch said there is a shortage of affordable housing options for lower- and middle-income older adults, especially in the villages.
Furthermore, older residents living in small villages sometimes spend up to 49 percent of their income on housing costs, said Crouch.
One of the main surprises in the findings, he said, is the extent of social isolation. More than half of older adults in Clinton County do not get enough social interaction, stated the report.
“Imagine the implications [of that] for mental health disorders,” Crouch remarked to commissioners.
The transportation issues are relevant to the level of social isolation, Crouch and Stuckert said. In addition, villages lack gathering spaces such as senior centers and restaurants for social interaction.
Currently there are three senior centers in the county located in Wilmington, Blanchester and Port William. Similar examples include New Vienna’s Community Center and Sabina’s senior program administered by the Sabina Church of Christ.
In terms of health-related findings, the majority of older adults do not meet standards for physical activity and nutrition, according to the report.
“Only 27 percent of Clinton County residents age 65 and up meet recommended physical activity requirements,” the report says. Those requirements are defined as: 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate-intensity, or 1 hour and 15 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of the two.
For the report, more than 500 older Clinton County adults were asked about their needs as they age.
At the commissioners appointment, Stuckert said the findings can feel a little overwhelming, “but as a county we should feel good that we’re having the conversation and looking at the issue.”
Beginning in 2019, Age-Friendly Clinton County will devise an action plan to address key issues identified in the report.
Age-Friendly Clinton County is a planning and implementation initiative designed to identify the needs of older adults, and then take the steps necessary to create a livable community for all ages.
In 2018 Clinton County became the seventh community in Ohio to enter into the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities, and the smallest county in the state to do so.
It is estimated that by the year 2030, one in five people in Clinton County will be age 65 or older.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.