Seniors in Freeborn County asked to fill out survey for Age-Friendly initiative

Published 2:19 pm Wednesday, April 24, 2024

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Coordinators of the Age-Friendly Freeborn County initiative are asking seniors throughout the county to fill out a survey to identify gaps in services for seniors in the community.

Freeborn County was designated as an Age-Friendly Community by AARP last year, and as part of that designation, the local committee was tasked with conducting a county-wide assessment to seniors 55 and older to figure out areas that can be improved. The survey is being paid for through grant funding through Age Friendly Minnesota.

Shari Sprague, executive director of the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce, said so far the assessment has been sent out to 2,150 seniors outside of Albert Lea in Freeborn County, and so far 222 have been returned.

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Jean Eaton, president of the Southeastern Minnesota Area Agency on Aging who is also a part of the chamber and the Albert Lea Healthcare Coalition, said several surveys have returned from Alden and Glenville but noted several other towns that were represented as well.

She was pleased with the response of people so far after only the first week. They have also received several comments from people who returned the survey who are thanking them for their efforts.

The survey asks questions about services the respondents may already be receiving help with, what services they would use if they were available, the senior housing options available in the community, what activities they may be interested in and even questions about isolation and loneliness.

Eaton noted that mental health is a big piece as about 64% of women who are seniors live alone, while 46% of men do.

Sprague said in addition to service gaps, they hope to see where people get their information from about programs and services available in the community.

Other assessments already being done on the county and state levels have found needs of transportation, mental health and access to care as top concerns.

The women said from the surveys returned so far, they are seeing seniors who want to be active but who may not know about programs already available in the community.

With efforts already underway in the rural areas, the group is next reaching out to seniors in Albert Lea. The survey is found online at It is also posted on the city of Albert Lea’s Facebook page, as well as on the Albert Lea Healthcare Coalition’s page. Hard copies will also be available at the Albert Lea Public Library.

They have also conducted focus groups with the Karen and Hispanic communities.

Eaton said the group has five years to complete a project that is started based on the survey results.

She said an “age-friendly” community is not just for seniors, and she would like to see something done for an intergenerational project.

“We really want to know what we can do to help — for everyone,” she said.

The Age-Friendly Freeborn County Committee is made up of people from numerous sectors, including the chamber, the Freeborn County Public Health Department, Mayo Clinic Health System, the Albert Lea Healthcare Coalition, the city of Albert Lea, Senior Resources, SEMAAA, SMART Transit, the Albert Lea Housing and Redevelopment Authority, the rural community and members of the Karen and Hispanic communities.

The effort correlates with efforts at the state level, where Gov. Tim Walz has created the Age-Friendly Minnesota Council.