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AAACF Washtenaw County Healthy & Fulfilling Aging Systems Research Report

Authors

Partner

Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation

Published

2021

AAACF Washtenaw County Healthy & Fulfilling Aging Systems Research Report

Summary

To document and analyze the daily lived experiences of older adults in Washtenaw County and the systems intended to support healthy aging, the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation (AAACF) commissioned the AAACF Washtenaw County Healthy & Fulfilling Aging Research Report, the first research of its kind to establish an independent and objective understanding of what healthy aging could be in Washtenaw County and how to improve the quality of life for all local seniors. AAACF contracted Root Cause of Cambridge, Massachusetts, to map existing programs and services using both quantitative and qualitative expertise to produce a comprehensive analysis of Washtenaw County’s current senior demographics, documentation of the lived experiences of older adults, and how to improve the senior ecosystem.

New Research to Advance a More Just Approach to Growing Older 

Since 1963, the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation (AAACF) has provided community capital to Washtenaw County, distributing proceeds from endowed funds made possible by 15,000 donors. Providing support for local older adults has been a focus area of AAACF since the establishment of The Anna Botsford Bach Fund for Seniors in 2003, which built upon the Phoebe Davis and Oscar Reimold funds. The addition of the Glacier Hills Legacy Fund in 2018 transformed the impact of funding for vulnerable seniors in Washtenaw County and their caregivers. 

The Impact of Older Adults in Washtenaw County 

As the largest grantmaker for older adult needs among Michigan’s 60 community foundations, AAACF sought to better understand the current status of local seniors and the systems designed to serve them, as well as to identify opportunities to promote a more just aging “ecosystem”: the spectrum of private and public resources to support healthy and fulfilling lives of seniors. 

To document and analyze the daily lived experiences of older adults in Washtenaw County and existing services to support healthy aging, AAACF commissioned the AAACF Washtenaw County Healthy & Fulfilling Aging Systems Research Report, the first research of its kind to establish an independent and objective understanding of the local ecosystem for seniors. AAACF contracted Root Cause to conduct a broad analysis of the county using both quantitative and qualitative methods. 

The comprehensive research project began in November 2019 with a thorough analysis of demographics for the older adult population in Washtenaw County. Interviews with more than 70 local older adults from all walks of life then yielded significant insights to complement the quantitative data and service mapping. In addition to the interviews, researchers conducted focus groups and trained older adults to conduct interviews with other older adults in their own communities and to act as photo/video journalists capturing daily lives digitally. 

This research report summary provides (1) a concise demographic snapshot of the local senior population and (2) firsthand perspectives from older adults (70+ interviews plus focus groups) about their experiences aging in Washtenaw County. It concludes with recommendations for action and partnership. 

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