The needs of seniors stand at the core of a short survey being distributed to residents of Clatsop and Tillamook counties.

A senior needs assessment is part of the process of preparing a plan as an area agency on aging, said Ann Stephani, director of North Coast Senior Services. A periodic update of the plan is required by the federal Older Americans Act.

"To get information about seniors, we want to hear from people who use these services - and those who don't," Stephani said.

"You don't have to be an older person to fill out the form," she added. Respondents can be seniors as well as people who care about seniors - relatives, neighbors, children and representatives of other social agencies.

The survey asks respondents to consider 17 services, ranging from home-delivered meals and help with legal questions to information about transportation, elder abuse or Medicaid. The services may be ranked as "very important," "important," "somewhat important" "not as important."

North Coast Senior Services has placed the surveys throughout the area at senior centers, public libraries and post offices (see accompanying information box).

Seniors who would prefer to talk with someone by phone instead of filling out the form and mailing it can telephone senior volunteers on Monday or Tuesday morning.

North Coast Senior Services must hear from seniors about their needs, and then look at demographic information and current services to learn what the responses tell them about seniors in the North Coast area, Stephani said. The agency will use the information as it writes its plan for the services and activities it will pursue on behalf of older people in the region.

Senior services officials hope to have the surveys returned by Nov. 30.

The survey does not deal with financial issues, but budgets are implicit in planning and priority-setting. The timing of the survey is challenging in light of state budget shortfalls that would affect social services and a Jan. 28 ballot measure for Oregon voters to consider a temporary income tax increase, Stephani said.

State funds often are combined with federal dollars for programs designed to serve seniors. Stephani acknowledged that severe budget shortfalls in Oregon could lead to not only in a loss of services for seniors who need moderate assistance from in-home caregivers, but also a loss of staff jobs at nursing homes and assisted living centers.

But the needs assessment is more general in focus as North Coast Senior Services officials develop a plan, Stephani said. "We'll try to get an idea of what's really important to seniors in Clatsop and Tillamook counties."

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