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Smooth Census Sailing

Fran and Trevor (R) greet their Census 2010 worker, Serene.

"Enough already!" That's often the initial response upon encountering the Census 2010 form, or even hearing about the questions on the news.

But one local family recently found the census to be unthreatening, a smooth and straightforward exercise that didn't even require too much time.

Wanting to judge for themselves, the couple, Fran and Trevor, willingly answered the recent knock at their front door. "We were ready because they had said they could come any time through the end of November. And our census enumerator, Serene, wore her bright yellow shirt and showed her ID - just as she should!"

But before doing their civic duty, the couple wanted some answers too: "We know the census is about people information and we understand that it provides an important snapshot for forward-planning. But why are there so many questions?

Well, it's really not that bad. While there are 67 of them, no more than 30 or so apply to any one person and clear check-off sections are provided for all. And the best part, said Fran, was that the family didn't even have to do the work. They simply shared responses with Serene who shaded the relevant circles with a number-two pencil!

The all-important census form can hold answers for up to six family members - more than sufficient for this household of four - well, down to three now, since big brother recently took possession of his own 'crib' and will fill out his own form at his current home.

Interestingly too, the information and questions do create a helpful checklist for the home and its three remaining residents:

Trevor is a working retiree. Still healthy as an ox and starting a brand new job next week. But it's good to see though, that for the first time, the question of health insurance coverage is addressed in the census questionnaire. When it comes to forward planning and budgeting, that is useful information.

Fran keeps busy at home and volunteers with local service providers. Thankfully, she has no chronic health issues to report, but she knows the overall picture isn't as bright for all. Ever cautious she interjects, "And all this info is confidential you say? It won't be traced back to us?"

She is reassured by Serene's firm "Correct!" response.

Sherina, the couple's daughter, recently started her student-teacher work experience here in Cayman: One year of practical exposure before she completes her dual university degrees in music and teaching.

And no, Sherina didn't mind the 'income' section on the questionnaire and quickly indicated the broad range into which her teacher's salary falls. "After all," she said, "This sort of information is easily accessed anyway."

Then it was on to the housing questions. "We're more or less what you can see for yourself," Fran commented. "This is a three-bedroom, four-bath, detached house. And no, we don't have solar power - but we do hope to in the near future."

An emergency generator? "Actually, we have two," responded Trevor. "We're well-prepared, thanks to Hurricane Ivan."

And while they owned the three cars parked out front, he also indicated that they carpool as often as possible: "The price of gas - you know?"

Just 25 minutes (and a glass of water) after opening the front door to Serene, all relevant data has been collected and everyone is good to go.

"Not intrusive at all," said Fran. "Very relaxed and professional," was Trevor's verdict regarding the short census-taking process. "And it's better to plan ahead now than have to dig up good roads, just to lay sewer pipes, right? That's why we volunteered to help smooth the process by sharing our Census 2010 experience with others."

But what about the end results of the census? What will the Cayman picture be, compared to that of eleven years ago?

At the end of the process, when all the data is collectively 'crunched', the Economics and Statistics Office will be able to tell us exactly what's-what: which residential areas are developing fastest; what's the best location for a new hospital, and which areas will need additional retirement homes, schools, city water, roads and other services.

Such information will be useful to government, developers and private sector entities and most importantly, updated knowledge of developmental trends may prove vital to individuals too - whether or not the population expands or contracts.

(GIS)

For further information contact: Lennon Christian