Herald JournalHerald Journal, Sept. 27, 2004

Seniors rate Winsted as good place to live

By Jane Otto

Some Winsted senior citizens find their city a pretty good place to live.

That’s according to the Minnesota Living Well survey in which 47 Winsted senior citizens participated the past spring.

In three out of five categories, Winsted had “above average” or “excellent” ratings that totalled more than 50 percent of the responses.

Mid Minnesota Senior Services Development Team consultant and Meeker County Commissioner Amy Wilde presented the Winsted City Council with a plaque at its Tuesday meeting designating the city as a “Minnesota Living Well” community.

Only 9 percent of the city’s more than 500 senior citizens took the survey, but at a presentation at Linden Wood Apartments Tuesday afternoon, Wilde said, “It’s not a scientific survey, it’s not a Gallup poll. It’s a valuable snapshot of how senior citizens rate this city at a certain point in time.”

Winsted was targeted for the survey because, at 23 percent, it has the highest percentage of senior citizens among McLeod County cities.

Winsted is one of 17 cities in 18 southwestern Minnesota counties being surveyed. The survey is possible through a Southwest Minnesota Foundation grant.

“Cities like Winsted have for 100 years been the retiring community for the surrounding areas,” Wilde said.

The foundation, along with several other agencies want to ensure towns in southwestern Minnesota can meet senior citizens’ needs.

The plan is to survey another 15 or 16 cities next year,” Wilde said.

The survey asks senior citizens to rate their city in five categories: navigating the community, transportation, housing, services and support for caregivers.

Winsted fared well in navigation, housing options, and senior services.

Some favorable responses included:

• The streets are clearly marked and the signs easy to read.

• Parking spaces are wide and well-marked.

• Sidewalks are wide and well-maintained.

• Prescriptions and meals are delivered to homes.

Some suggested improvements including public benches, better house addressing, and transportation to churches or the downtown area.

Wilde said service providers need to publicize more the services they offer. “There’s a lot of good stuff available in Winsted, but not everybody knows about it.”

Annual follow-up surveys will be conducted with the results being forwarded to the city administrator, Wilde said.

“Then, the city council can take at look at what their senior citizens are recommending,” Wilde said.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Wilde stressed to the council the importance of wanting to keep seniors in Winsted.

“Seniors are a very valuable asset to their towns,” Wilde said. “They are people who support local businesses and invest in the local banks.”

More than half the cars sold in the United States are bought by people 50 and older. “Do you want them to buy cars in McLeod County or in Tuscon, Ariz.?” Wilde asked. “When you have facilities, you retain your elderly.”

Senior citizens can also provide their city with a lot of expertise, such as serving on library boards or planning commissions, Wilde said. They also volunteer for a variety of organizations and churches.

“Your issue as a city council is to make the city senior friendly,” Wilde told Winsted council members. “The most important thing you can do as a city council is when making decisions ask yourself, ‘How is this going to affect our senior citizens?’”

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