Thompson Rivers University

No. 1 concern for older adults living with health conditions? Transportation

October 11, 2017

Research shows that transportation is a top concern for older adults with chronic conditions in both urban and rural areas.

They’ve spent more than a year gathering the voices of older adults living in BC’s Interior, and now, thanks to a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) Reach Award, Drs. Noeman Mirza and Wendy Hulko are preparing to share their findings with the world.

In summer 2016, Mirza and Hulko partnered with Lori Seeley of Interior Health on ROAR — Researching Older Adults’ Repositioning: An Exploratory Study of Older Adults’ Views on Health Care Restructuring in BC’s Central Interior. Along with a team of TRU undergraduate researchers, they conducted group and individual interviews in 10 communities — both rural and urban — within Interior Health. The project, originally funded by an Interior Health Evidence-Informed Practice Grant, and augmented by an MSFHR Convening and Collaborating Grant, was designed to provide insights about what older adults need to maintain good health, long term, within their communities, with the health care users as subject matter experts.

Read: Research on the road: Project reinvigorates aging and health research at TRU, InsideTRU, Aug. 15, 2016

The project aligned 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 results of the 83 interviews indicated a lack of familiarity with this repositioning work along with a strong desire to be consulted about the changes, said Hulko.

“They want to be involved, and they want that face-to-face interaction with decision makers.”

One of the biggest concerns expressed in all communities, urban and rural, was transportation.

“Most were saying that we need more doctors, and we need more walk-in clinics, but we also need the ability to make an appointment. It’s all related to transportation and their dependence on the HandyDart system,” she said.

The research also provided evidence to support the correlation between income and health, in that those with annual incomes of less than $25,000 were more likely to live with two or more chronic conditions. Those with annual incomes of more than $30,000 were likely to live with one chronic condition.

The Convening and Collaborating grant provides an opportunity for the research team to go back to the communities, share their results with participants, and develop knowledge translation tools to share with decision makers. This will happen through a knowledge summit next spring to which ROAR participants and IH decision makers will be invited to foster the face-to-face interaction so desired by older adults.

“Our goal is to translate this knowledge and ensure we seed it into practice,” Hulko said.

The Reach Award will allow the researchers to put their findings before an international audience through the development of a short documentary to be released at the knowledge summit, and publishing in an international, open-access journal.

More information

Dr. Wendy Hulko

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