Canada has an aging population, but the setting for most research that addresses the health care needs of this group takes place in large urban centres.
That’s what makes the latest project being undertaken by a team of TRU researchers and students so unique. This summer, a TRU research team hits the road to find out what older adults require to maintain good health, long term, in rural British Columbia.
The project, “Researching Older Adults’ Repositioning (ROAR): An Exploratory Study of Older Adults’ Views on Health Care Restructuring in B.C.’s Central Interior,” is funded by a $15,000 Interior Health (IH) Evidence-Informed Practice (EVIP) grant, and is led by Dr. Wendy Hulko and Dr. Noeman Mirza, along with co-investigator and IH Practice Lead Lori Seeley.
To gather evidence, the team is conducting roundtable and individual interviews in 10 communities within IH — one urban (Kamloops) and nine rural — to determine how the needs of older adults with chronic health conditions are being met, and what could be done to improve service delivery.
ROAR is in direct alignment with IH’s goal of repositioning health care services in rural communities to support independent living, reduce hospital admissions and delay residential care for older adults.
The study works with the idea that older adults are the experts on their own healthcare needs, explained Hulko, an Associate Professor in Social Work.
“The interest in participating has been overwhelming,” she said, but adds her team is still actively seeking participation from those aged 75 and over who have complex care needs.
Previous studies have been informed by healthcare practitioners and caregivers, but this study is unique in that it seeks to obtain the perspective of the healthcare clients, explained Mirza, an Assistant Professor in Nursing.
Hulko estimates that by this fall her team will have received feedback from at least 100 people.
“We expect to hear the difference between what services are available in their communities and what services participants want access to.”
So far, several participants have expressed concern about a lack of general practitioners, which forces them to depend on walk-in clinics.
“The challenge with walk-in clinics is that you can’t make appointments, and you never know when you will be seen, so that brings up a lot of other issues, specifically transportation,” said Hulko.
Other small communities, however, have enough GPs but face other challenges, including a lack of assisted living facilities.
“There are some places where you either live in a group setting where there is no support, or you live in a residential care home. People want to live independently, but they can’t do it without support,” she said.
The ROAR project is raising the profile of aging research at TRU, and has already reinvigorated the Aging and Health Research Group, which serves as a focal point for aging-related research in the Central Interior.
Once the data is collected, the research team will prepare and submit a summary of its findings to IH, and hope to present the findings at the World Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics in San Francisco next year.
To be part of the conversation:
Participants must be 65 years of age or older and living in or nearby one of the communities listed below. The team wants to connect with a diverse population of older adults, including racialized, minority ethnic, queer, low income, and Indigenous older adults, and are especially interested in those living with complex chronic health conditions (e.g. diabetes, depression, COPD.) If anyone is uncomfortable discussing primary and community care in a group setting or has mobility issues, then individual interviews are possible.
Upcoming Focus Groups
- Merritt – Aug. 17, 1 p.m. at the Merritt Library, 1691 Garcia St.
- Chase – Sept. 8, 1 p.m. at the Seniors Centre, 542 Shuswap Ave.
- 100 Mile House – Sept. 15, 6 p.m. at the Creekside Seniors Activity Centre, 501 Cedar Ave.
- Barrier- Sept. 15, 1 p.m. at the Pentecostal Christian Life Assembly, 4818 Annesty Rd.
- Logan Lake – TBA, expected date in second week of September.
- Two more Kamloops dates TBD
Dr. Wendy Hulko
Dr. Noeman Mirza