Survey Methods and Response Rates Among Rural Community Dwelling Older Adults

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Abstract

Background:

Rural older adults are not often targeted for surveys, and little is known about survey response rates in this population. Because overall numbers of rural older adults are small, it is important to consider techniques to improve their survey response rates.

Objectives:

The purpose of this study was to work with community partners to determine whether rural older adults participating in a rural county home-delivered meals program were more likely to respond to an injury risk survey hand-delivered via the postal service or hand-delivered by the home-delivered meals drivers.

Methods:

All home-delivered meals clients older than 65 years old were randomized to one of two groups. One group (n = 70) received the following via the postal service: a prenotice letter, a survey packet containing a description of the survey, the survey, a stamped and addressed return envelope, and a reminder/thank-you card. Older adults in the other group (n = 69) were personally handed the survey packet by the home-delivered meals driver.

Results:

The overall survey response rate was 43.9%. Older adults who were handed the survey packets by the home-delivered meals drivers were older and significantly more likely to return the survey (57%) compared with those who received survey materials in the mail (31%). Only 27% of respondents agreed to be contacted regarding participation in future face-to-face interviews. When taking into account response rates, postage costs alone were over five times higher for the postal-delivered surveys compared with the hand-delivered surveys.

Discussion:

By working with community partners, we were able to determine that older adults in a rural community were more likely to respond to surveys personally handed to them by someone they knew.

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