- Community Assessment Survey for Older Adults (CASOA)™
- Other Assessments
What are the gaps between available resources and services needed by community members and what are the barriers to receiving services that exist? Are the older residents in a community isolated by ill health, lack of transportation or too few opportunities to connect with others? What will be the consequences to facilities and budgets as a community ages? Are low income pregnant women getting the prenatal care that they need? Where should limited dollars be directed in a community to communicate with a fast growing number of new Americans who speak Spanish at home? Does this community need an inpatient hospice facility?
In the private sector, it is called market research or a feasibility study and it drives business decisions. In the world of community based organizations and governments, assessing client or constituent needs is no less important, and when done well, it provides essential information for program planning and modification. Just as a car manufacturer must understand who potential consumers are and what they seek in their driving experience, a local government, safehouse or clinic needs to determine the makeup of its catchment area and the expectation that potential consumers have for current or future service delivery.
Before new programs are initiated and even before they are conceived, NRC works with clients to identify eligible consumers, the range of likely services and the magnitude of impact expected from those services. If a program or programs already are in place, NRC works with clients to clarify the kinds of modifications that may be most likely and, if a new kind of consumer is expected, how that consumer may differ from current clients.
To investigate program need, NRC relies on a wide range of data sources that may be narrowed depending on budget and time constraints. From our client’s current business, we first consider what existing records may tell us—the income, ethnic, age, geographic and ability mix of consumers. We explore existing literature, including needs assessments already done for similar organizations. Here we look for clues about the kinds of programs and consumers that have paired successfully in the past.
We investigate data sets that may prove useful in describing the population from which consumers will be drawn—U.S. Census, CDC, vital statistics, etc. Finally we plan ways of hearing directly from current staff, consumers, potential consumers and other stakeholders. This may take the form of guided discussions or focus groups, key informant interviews where select staff, consumers, elected officials or board members are contacted for in-depth exploration of important program philosophies, goals, strengths and shortcomings. We also conduct general population surveys among the group of residents most likely to be served by the program. These scientifically conducted surveys provide the perspectives of a representative sample of potential customers whose current habits, attitudes and knowledge are systematically gathered and their likely future behaviors are tested. Once we understand the current demographic makeup of consumers and service gaps, we project future demand and possibly costs to meet that demand. These kinds of projections are particularly helpful for making strategic plans concrete.
The Community Assessment Survey for Older Adults (CASOA)™ serves as a strategic planning and evaluation tool that communities may use to develop their older adult service plans, determine how future resources will be allocated, evaluate their current service provision, influence key stakeholders, empower community members and monitor success. Detailed information on CASOA is available here.
Beyond our work in CASOA, we have conducted numerous customized, large scale assessments of older adults investigating issues such as transportation, caregiving, nutrition and food security, in-home service provision and more. In 2004, we conducted the Strengths and Needs Assessment of Older Adults in the State of Colorado, a comprehensive study of older adults and baby boomers, providing data and recommendations for sixteen Area Agencies on Aging as well as the State Unit of Aging, housed in the Department of Human Services, Division of Aging and Adult Services.
In addition to our work on large-scale needs assessments, NRC principals have conducted a series of evaluations and research studies in the areas of elder housing, employee eldercare, hospice needs, food security and nutrition, palliative care and we have written a white paper envisioning the impact of the aging population on local government services. We have worked with numerous community based organizations serving older adults to help develop outcome assessment systems and have conducted trainings on outcome measurement for the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging and to AAA directors in Colorado. To further our work with non-profits serving elders, NRC wrote The Outcome Handbook for Programs Serving Older Adults.