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Team looks at rural aging in B.C. Interior

TRU researchers overwhelmed by show of interest
August 18, 2016 1:10 P.M.
TRU's Dr. Wendy Hulko, research lead for ROAR. (TRU)

Health care is a pivotal issue for Interior communities and their residents, especially those with chronic health conditions.

That's the premise of consultations taking place in and around Kamloops over the next month as a team of TRU researchers and students brings a regional focus to the aging demographic in rural, Interior B.C.

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.

To gather evidence, the team is conducting roundtable and individual interviews in 10 communities within the health region — 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. An initial focus group met in Merritt Thursday, Aug. 17.

ROAR is in direct alignment with Interior Health'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 research team is led by Dr. Wendy Hulko and Dr. Noeman Mirza, along with co-investigator and IH Practice Lead Lori Seeley. 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,” Hulko 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 health-care practitioners and caregivers, but this study is unique in that it seeks to obtain the perspective of the health-care clients, explained Mirza, an assistant professor in nursing.

“We expect to hear the difference between what services are available in their communities and what services participants want access to,” Hulko said.

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.

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 participate in the consultations:

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

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 to be announced.

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