Amber Durkin

Youngstown State University


“It was great to see the many roles the AAAs play in the grand scheme of the Ohio aging network. This project and the Scholars in Aging program as a whole have been very rewarding.”

This semester I was fortunate to complete my internship with the Area Agency on Aging 11, which is located in Niles, OH. Working at the AAA I have several responsibilities, but my primary project for the Scholars in Aging program was investigating trends in Title III service delivery, particularly Nutrition and Support services. The major goals are to better understand the demographic characteristics of populations that are receiving services, to identify trends among populations that are not receiving services, and overarching geographic trends at county and zip code levels.

Prior to my acceptance into the Scholars in Aging program, I had been working with the AAA for about 6 months. One of the first projects I worked on as an intern was mapping all of the Title III services in our 4 county PSA by zip code and service type. My supervisor, Tony Cario, wanted a visual representation of where Title III services are being provided. The visual aid shows what areas are dense with services and what areas are receiving little to no services. This information can be used to help guide service providers to areas that are currently underserved.

After the map was created I moved on to other projects. When I was applied to the Scholars program I had run a few project ideas across my mentor; while all of them seemed interesting, I kept coming back to the Title III project. The map was a great first step, but there were so many other variables to consider. After collaborating with my supervisor, I landed on this project, as described above. Initially, I collected census data for every zip code within the 4-county PSA, including: population density, number of individuals over age 75, number of females, population counts for various ethnicities, and number of households with income below $23,999 and $14,999. SAMS data was also reported for each zip code in terms of service type, number of units, number of consumers, and cost. The goal was to run statistical analyses to better understand trends among both high and low population density areas.

Before I ran the data, I really wanted some point of comparison. Each AAA is a bit different, so I really wanted to see if trends were consistent across different PSAs. With the help of my supervisor, I reached out to another PSA requesting that they share their SAMS data for this project. This AAA was a bit more urban than AAA 11, so I thought it would be interesting to see the similarities and differences. At first I thought it might be challenging to get other AAAs to cooperate with data sharing, however, I was proved entirely wrong. The PSA I reached out to agreed and promptly shared their information with me. Soon thereafter, I reached out to another AAA in an area that is predominantly rural. They did not respond immediately, but they too ended up sharing data with me eventually.

Data analysis is not complete for this project yet, but it will be very soon. Overall, there were very few obstacles I faced while working on this project. I would say the biggest obstacle is data confidentiality and de-identification. I took several steps to ensure complete anonymity in my process. First and foremost, I chose to analyze demographic information from the 2010 Census and American Community Survey data. In doing this, there is no way that the SAMS information could be related back to a specific individual. Additionally, in my final reports findings will be focused on trends related to high and low population density areas on a small scale (zip codes) and large scale (county level). No county, zip code, or AAA will be specifically referenced. Each AAA who shared data will receive a report with information specific to their PSA though.

The beauty of this project is that there are so many opportunities for expansion state-wide. One component I am currently looking to expand upon is levy funded services. There are many counties that operate Senior Services Levies that are administrated outside of the AAAs. Better understanding what services are being provided with levy funds will provide a more comprehensive picture. Participating in the Scholars in Aging program validated my desire to expand this project. This program enabled me to better understand Title III (and many other) programs at the state level. Also, it was great to see the many roles the AAAs play in the grand scheme of the Ohio aging network. This project and the Scholars in Aging program as a whole have been very rewarding. I am exceedingly grateful for this experience.