In order to conduct an effective evaluation, rural aging in place programs should regularly gather data to determine how well the program is working for the older individuals who are aging in place, as well as for the entire community. This data can include the baseline data that were collected prior to the implementation of the program, data collected during certain intervals of the program, and data collected after the program ends.
For example, before committing to an aging in place program, the needs of the community's older adult population should be assessed. This may involve talking directly with older adults, community members, and agencies who regularly interact with and support them. Doing so will facilitate a grassroots approach to needs assessment that is catered to the needs of the community's older adult population. It may also provide opportunities for local residents to get involved with the planning and implementation of the program.
Continued evaluation of the program, including getting the perspective of the program participants, is necessary for improving the program. Seeking guidance from professionals who can help assess the program's needs and identify available resources can assist in this process.
Finally, an evaluation of the cost effectiveness, health outcomes, and sustainability of an aging in place model can be used to determine the program's success and to encourage other communities to replicate the model in their own communities.
Evaluation measures that can be used for aging in place programs include:
Cost savings for families, government, and health systems.
Example: Services provided in community settings like homes, community centers, and senior centers generally cost less per person than those in nursing homes and other institutional settings.
Health status and healthcare use: Improved health outcomes or indicators.
Example: Improved access to care, low re-admittance to the hospital; low admittance to long-term care facilities.
Self-maintenance: Assessing independence through activities of daily living,
mobility, and instrumental activities of daily living.
Example: Independently bathing, dressing, toileting, transferring, shopping, cooking, using transportation.
Affective: Changes in mental and physical health and quality of life
Example: A decrease in social isolation and depression. Increased social connections, civic engagement, and volunteering.
Environmental conditions: Reduced barriers to aging in place and to accessible
Example: Home modifications that allow an individual to stay in their home longer, transportation to medical care and other services, and increased use of telehealth services.
Resources to Learn More
Evaluation of Aging in Place
Peer reviewed article of a Missouri state-sponsored evaluation of aging in place. Discusses the methods used and the results of costs, physical and mental health assessment data, and positive health measures.
Author(s): Rantz, M.J., Phillips, L., Aud, M., et al.
Performance Outcome Measurement Project
Provides examples of survey models for program assessments. Offers specific instruments for programs to evaluate any services offered under the Older Americans Act (OAA) at the state and local level.
Organization(s): Administration for Community Living
Program Evaluation: Measuring
the Value of Active Aging
Provides a detailed description of program evaluation and identifies specific steps and strategies for planners to evaluate their program and how to address challenges in program assessment.
Organization(s): Partnership for Prevention, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration