West Tisbury focuses on Howes House

A focus group study may be done to determine Howes House's future development. — Rich Saltzberg

The Howes House building committee plans to gather a focus group rather than relying on a survey to determine what folks want for the future of the building. The committee met Tuesday morning for the first time since its name was changed

According to committee member Bernadette Lyons, the committee wanted to form a survey subcommittee to “better understand” the needs and wants of Island seniors, particularly in regard to Howes House, which is home to the Up-Island Council on Aging. However, the subcommittee suggested doing a focus group study instead to get a wider age range, which Lyons was concerned was outside of the scope of the committee. Healthy Aging Martha’s Vineyard executive director and subcommittee member Cindy Trish gave a presentation using data from the “MV Older Adult 2020 Survey” her organization conducted. Trish said that for the purposes of Howes House, a survey “is not the most effective way” to collect the information they want, such as people’s perception of the building, long-term aging plans, and the needs of vulnerable populations. The focus group study would take six to eight weeks to conduct and analyze, and aims to get input from a diverse group of Islanders (e.g. towns, age, ethnicity, employment, etc.) “to ensure representation.” At least one focus group would include Island service organizations, such as Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and Island Grown Initiative. 

“None of that we can control in an online survey format,” Trish said. “A focus group methodology is an amazing way to really explore blue-sky thinking and encourage our older adults to not only think about what their needs are now, but what they anticipate them to be, and what they would really like to see offered in terms of the whole experience of Howes House.”

The committee members took some time to ask questions, such as whether the study would cost money. Committee member James Klingensmith said he thought things should be kept “simple at this time,” and favored the survey approach, but Trish said at this stage, a survey would not get the results much faster than the study. 

“I like the visioning idea,” committee member Katherine Logue said, although she had concerns about how participants might be selected in the study. When asked, Logue said the committee would want results by Oct. 15 to get a design in front of voters during the town meeting. 

After some discussion, the committee reached consensus to change the subcommittee’s focus from a survey to a focus group.