“They come here because it’s a place of refuge”: Residential Care Facilities with Cultural Affiliations

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Harhaj, Natalia
Cultural Care , Seniors , Built Environment , Residential Care Facilities
With the increase in Canada’s seniors population (age 65 and over), there is a need to understand the residential requirements of this population. Almost 90 percent of seniors in Ontario reside in urban areas (Hodge 2008) and the majority live in the Greater Toronto Area. Of particular concern is the decrease in availability of informal care for aging and weakening individuals due to changes in economy and family relations. These changes are likely to result in a large influx of seniors into residential care facilities (RCFs) because not everyone is able to stay at home or is eligible to live in a long term care (LTC) facility. Seniors’ reasons for relocating as well as an analysis of their experiences after the move are required as the need for RCFs increases. Cultural and/or religious groups have become important providers of RCFs in Canada by offering necessary services for an aging population. The goal of this thesis is to analyse the importance of culture and the built environment within a push-pull framework associated with the decision to move to an RCF through a case study. The guiding question of the research is: Why do seniors choose facilities with cultural affiliations? In 2013, interviews were conducted with 15 residents, who were currently residing in a Ukrainian RCF called Ivan Franko. The results show that seniors move because of certain limitations (e.g., health, difficulty doing housework, family events, etc.). When an older person decides that they want or need to move, they will move to a facility that provides a physical and social environment while reinforcing cultural values (i.e., built environment), assuming a place is available. Acknowledging the limitations of a qualitative case study approach, the findings are important to consider as the multicultural population of the GTA and other large Canadian cities continue to age. The growing demand for places in RCFs reflects social, cultural and religious needs of a diverse older population. A challenge will exist for cultural and religious not-for-profit voluntary organizations, the for-profit sector, and governments at all levels to seek new ways to develop facilities in the future.
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