Together with Sustainable San Mateo, Ecologic Institute carried out a study on the healthcare needs of senior citizens in addition to other related factors, such as housing, access to parks and open space, public transportation, and healthy food. The study was sponsored by the Sequoia Healthcare District and the Peninsula Health Care District and shows that San Mateo's senior citizens are generally in good health but, at the same time, exhibit disparities due to income, ethnic and racial background, and other factors. Additionally, the report provides information on opportunities for combining healthcare and environmental policies in order to not only improve ecological goals but also senior citizens' health in a sustainable and mutually beneficial way. The study is available for download.
The report aims to provide those working to improve senior health in San Mateo County with a wide variety of information on current and projected senior health. To achieve this, it relies on many sources of information, chief among them the San Mateo County Health System, specifically the Aging and Adult Services Division and the Health Policy and Planning Division. Their work is supplemented with statistics from the US Census Bureau, especially the American Community Survey, as well as a broad range of academic and policy studies, geospatial statistics and visualizations.
The detailed statistics, supported by the results from an Internet-survey of experts and practitioners, can help to identify areas in need of more specific information and/or further research into the underlying causes of the identified issues. Experts will undoubtedly raise a number of follow-up questions related to the data and information presented in the report and thereby initiate a deeper conversation about specific aspects of senior health or the broader policy approaches taken.
For example, the following areas that could benefit from increased attention emerged from the report:
- Beyond the surveys conducted by the SMC Health System little information exists regarding the perceptions, expectations and plans that San Mateo County residents, especially the Baby Boomer generation, have with respect to their retirement age. This concerns, in particular, detailed breakdowns by age, sex, race/ethnicity, nativity and socio-economic status. Since the county’s senior population is projected to grow the most rapidly over the next twenty years, it is important for planning purposes to know more about its characteristics.
- More emphasis could be placed on understanding senior health issues in the context of place. The maps presented in the report are only a first cursory look at how healthy aging is influenced by place and neighborhood. More spatially explicit analyses can help our understanding of differences and similarities among older adults aside from the typical features age, sex, race/ethnicity and income. They can improve our understanding why a program succeeds in one area but fails in another or help identify and reallocate resources to locations that would otherwise have gone unnoticed and thereby lead to efficiency gains in public spending.
- The increased recognition of the linkages between and synergistic benefits of horizontal cooperation between different sectors of government, e.g., the public health system, the housing department and transportation agencies, should be promoted further through the development of systems-oriented, quantitative indicators that capture how each component is contributing to enhancing the overall quality of life in the county for seniors and how their maximum impact is tied to the others.
The full report is also available on Sustainable San Mateo County's website for free download.