Many seniors, especially those in rural communities, face the choice of having to leave familiar surroundings as they get older.
Researchers from the Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit (SPHERU) at the University of Saskatchewan and University of Regina have been awarded $749,335 from the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) to support rural aging research aimed at helping seniors age in place in their home communities.
Led by U of S researcher Nazeem Muhajarine and U of R researcher Bonnie Jeffery, the three-year project will focus on improving health outcomes and services for rural seniors.
“Population aging is one of the most critical issues facing Canada and beyond,” Jeffery said. “These projects collectively aim to identify, develop and assess interventions to support healthy aging in rural communities across Saskatchewan.”
Bringing together key stakeholders, including policy makers, older adults and health professionals, will enable a better understanding of how to improve healthy aging for rural seniors. Muhajarine explained these partnerships and local collaboration are essential.
“We are strongly committed to engaging with communities, partnering with older adults, mentoring new trainees and increasing Saskatchewan's capacity to address pertinent topics in the field of healthy aging,” he said.
The funding will support three interrelated studies targeted towards improving seniors' mobility, social support, built environment and information needs of existing supports and services. The first phase of the three-year project began in April.
Community partners involved in the study include local leaders Dennis Fjestad (Wolseley), Richard Dow (Wolseley), Noreen Johns (Young), Bev Bertram (Watrous), and Murray Westby (Watrous).
As mayor of Wolseley, Fjestad knows that for many seniors, the idea of having to leave their rural community is a devastating proposition and that aging in the community should be a top priority.
“Aging in the community means that seniors have the opportunity to stay close to their family and friends and continue living in our own homes safely and independently,” he said.
Across the country, seniors make up one of the fastest growing segments of the population. The aging demographic will present an unprecedented demand for healthcare, human services and community supports. As the aging demographic grows, the researchers assert that healthy aging in place will become a global priority.