Is rural Canada a good place to grow old?

September 28, 2005

The experiences of rural seniors in Canada have provided researchers in the Department of Human Ecology at the University of Alberta with valuable information that will be used in the development of policies governing a national home-care program.

October 1 2005 marks the United Nations International Day of the Older Person and as part of the occasion; researchers at the University of Alberta are highlighting the results of a recent review of three rural communities as places to live for older people.

Surveys carried out revealed a number of interesting findings about the differing levels of support to seniors and their access to services in rural areas.

Rural Seniors' project manager Jacquie Eales says the Census survey revealed that not all rural communities provided the same levels of support for seniors.

"Because rural communities are not all the same, there are naturally varying levels of support, with some seniors having strong social support networks and others at-risk of inadequate care as they grow older," says Eales.

The surveys formed part of a three-year research program (2002 - 2005) that received almost $1 million in funding from Veterans Affairs of Canada (VAC) and looks at the care context of rural seniors. Rural health has emerged as an important policy issue for several federal government departments that recognize the tremendous challenge inherent in providing health care in rural Canada where low population density and distance impact service delivery.

Over 20% of seniors live in rural communities and have traditionally been poorly served in the areas of health care, transportation, housing and other services. VAC has been providing a home care program to war veterans throughout Canada through the Veterans Independence Program for several decades and believes its expertise, experience, and support of research such as that carried out at the U of A has much to offer policy makers in the development of a national home care program.

The project also produced a moving photo essay of the lives of rural seniors in three communities: a farming community in Alberta, a retirement community in Ontario, and a seasonal community in Nova Scotia.
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For more information contact Jacquie Eales, project manager Rural Seniors Project, University of Alberta. (780) 492-2865, jacquie.eales@ualberta.ca

University of Alberta

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