I learned the hard way why there aren’t more write-in answers offered in professional surveys. One reason is how difficult it is to place them in a reasonable number of categories to make useful graphs. The other reason is the number of messages that instead of answering the question, take the surveyor to task for how the survey is constructed. The Crabby Old Lady in me pitched a minor fit about the second reason:
“Run your own damned survey if you can’t be polite about your critiqueing. Crabby spent several full days creating it, making graphs and sorting answers like yours that didn’t make it easy and screwed with the statistics.
“And to those who wrote in “none of the above” – ahem, that’s what the text box is for: an answer not available in the choices.”
Do I wish I’d asked some questions differently, or supplied other choices. Sure. I learned a lot about what is needed for graphing answers, and a lot about how people answer open questions. Future surveys will be better.
As to the data itself, what stands out for me is elder use of technology. That so many of us taught ourselves to use computers and use so many other modern devices should put to rest the media’s love affair with the idea that elders are technology-phobic or idiots about it.
It helps, no doubt, that we’re an intelligent bunch with a lot of higher education, but I’m not the only elder who went no further than high school who does well with technology – at least when I see a reason for it and it enhances my life. I have no need for Twitter or text-messaging, and I was grateful to give up the interruptions of instant messaging when I left the workforce.
I am surprised at how many live on farms or in rural areas – one-fifth. I didn’t expect that. And I am concerned about the 25 percent living on less than $25,000 a year. I have no mortgage or car payment, carry no other debt and have no costly diseases or conditions, but that cannot be true of everyone in the low-income category, and when I see estimates for the price of heating oil next winter, not to mention sticker shock at the grocery store recently, I wonder how we will manage.
Although I suspected it, I'm disappointed at how white we are. It would be good to have more diverse input as certainly there are assumptions, ideas and nuances about getting old, ageism, politics, healthcare and public policy in regard to aging that we are unaware of and are not considering as we might.
Those are the standout results for me. Now that all the results have been posted, I wonder what your overall impressions are.
As some of you noted (and I appreciate the appreciation), running this survey and preparing it for prime time was a lot of work. I woke suddenly at 2AM Monday morning realizing that I’d screwed up the layout of the graphs for most of the questions including all of them for the first post that day, and spent the next few hours making the fixes. Nevertheless, I enjoyed pulling it together and some ideas for more surveys came to mind while I was doing it.
But I would also like to hear from you. What topics would you like to have surveyed? I’m paying some minor bucks for this polling service so we may as well get our money’s worth, and it’s fun to see what we’re thinking and doing. Plus, I’ve developed some routines now for getting the slog work done and it won’t be so time-consuming in the future.
Thank you all for taking the survey and for your enthusiasm for it.
[Continuing in the Mother's Day series at The Elder Storytelling Place today, A Mother's Goodbye.]