This year in FY22, leadership made the decision to change how the survey was made. We demonstrate in this survey how our community interacts with us in the most meaningful ways in order to engage with our programs and services.
Staff offer a huge shout-out of thanks to former MSAC Advisory Council member/volunteer, Mary Carlson, for her hard work in compiling this report as well as serving on the Annual Survey Design Committee with Laura Morse and Liz Dodd.
Background of 2021 Survey:
The Montpelier Senior Activity Center (MSAC) is a division of the Community Services Department for the City of Montpelier, Vermont. MSAC membership is open to anyone age fifty or older. Its mission is to "enhance the quality of life for older adults in the Montpelier area through opportunities that develop physical, mental, cultural, social and economic well-being in a welcoming, flexible environment."
With that mission in mind, MSAC initiated an annual survey process in the spring of 2019. Its purpose was to clarify needs and interests of Montpelier area residents aged 50 or older, and to assess how well MSAC is responding to them. Do MSAC programs have a positive impact on their lives? How do they learn about the programs? How might MSAC improve its operations?
The survey was designed to collect quantifiable and anecdotal information. In 2019, MSAC enclosed a paper copy of the survey form in its May membership renewal mailing to current and recent MSAC members. An electronic Survey Monkey version of the form was available online and posted to the MSAC website. People were urged to choose the electronic instead of paper version of the survey to reduce the hours of data entry needed to incorporate information from paper forms into the survey data set.
Onset of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) in March of 2020 forced MSAC to close its doors and radically alter its programming to protect the health of its members, visitors and staff. The annual survey was among dozens of activities forfeited that year. That spring, the Center's newsletters advised that MSAC was alive and well but would not collect the annual member dues for the time being.
MSAC cancelled or suspended dozens of services. With the building shuttered, MSAC stopped serving its popular FEAST meals in a congregate setting in the spring of 2020. However, it expanded home-delivered frozen meal services and pivoted to serving prepared hot meals "curbside" outside the facility twice a week. Many MSAC instructors independently began to offer private classes online. A remote learning model allowed participants with access to appropriate electronic devices to use Zoom or other video platforms to take part in classes from home. That fall, MSAC began offering its own classes again, including some in-person classes that ran five weeks before being cancelled due to a surge in COVID cases.
As the pandemic dragged on from quarter to quarter, MSAC followed City and State guidance in judging if, when, and how it could offer programs. The chronic shifting of Vermont's COVID status required MSAC to be nimble, making difficult decisions that could or had to change with little notice. Should the building remain closed? Should MSAC require facemasks? Should it restrict access to vaccinated people? How "welcoming" would MSAC feel with such policies? Older Vermonters tended to stop in-person interactions with others, putting distance between themselves and potential sources of viral contagion.
The loss of revenues from member dues, rental income, fundraising events and class fees pinched MSAC's budget. In May of 2021, a mailing to about 1600 current and former MSAC participants urged them to complete the electronic version of the survey but, unlike 2019, did not enclose a paper copy of the survey form. MSAC promoted early submissions and Annual Meeting attendance by inviting those who returned the survey by June 15 to take part in a raffle prize drawing at the June 22, 2021 annual membership meeting. With only 105 submissions by mid-June, MSAC extended the survey deadline to July 30 and enclosed the survey in its early July mailing to about 250 members who receive the MSAC newsletter on paper. This step expanded survey participation to 174 respondents, a number still less than half the size of the 2019 survey response. It also may have skewed statistics a bit toward those less inclined to use electronic devices.
The pandemic –the impact COVID had on MSAC and its participants' lives – influenced the design of the 2021 survey and how MSAC participants did or did not respond to it. This report highlights a few of the 160 written comments and summarizes others. It presents statistical and other responses to survey questions, considers those findings and describes how MSAC will put them to use. For some survey questions, the report distinguishes the results for respondents age 75 or older from those for the overall survey population.
MSAC paused in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and did not conduct an Annual Survey.