The Connections Place: A Feasibility Study for an Active Aging Center in Wausau, Wisconsin

WIPPS Research Partners was contracted by The Connections Place, Inc., to conduct a feasibility study to assess public interest in and potential usage of a Wausau area center for active seniors through multiple measures of public and stakeholder input. The study was designed to identify key demographic trends, challenges, and opportunities in the Wausau metropolitan area likely to impact the use of a senior center. In addition to a comprehensive survey of Wausau-area residents age 55 and up (836 out of 3,000 individuals polled returned a completed survey for a 27.87 percent return rate), the study included background research on state and national active aging trends, key informant interviews and stakeholder focus groups to provide in-depth analysis of potential barriers to usage, willingness to travel, interest in specific programs and activities, fee thresholds, and other factors that might influence facility use. Using census data and geospatial analysis, the study demonstrated significant future growth of the senior population in the area. Results showed that seniors believe there is a need for an Active Aging Center in Wausau and indicated they would likely use it. Given the national trends towards social isolation among seniors, a center would provide the types of programs and activities that have proven successful in addressing the physical and mental health of seniors in other communities. Finally, community stakeholders and seniors were particularly interested in the center becoming a social connector organization, which many felt is missing in the Wausau area. This information was used by The Connections Place Board to develop a funding plan and to seek a specific location for a center.