Can Rural Communities Support Aging Populations? A Case Study in South Frontenac Township, Ontario, Canada

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Raymer, Nicole
Aging , Rural , Older Adults , Services , Geography , Health Geography , Community
When planning for care for the aging population, the aging-in-place movement aims to keep older adults at home if possible – but how feasible is this method for the rural population? Previous research has shown that rural older adults tend to have poorer health, less access to health care, and be more isolated than their urban counterparts. The question arises as to whether small rural communities can work together to provide comprehensive programming and services to support their growing older adult population. To understand how different demographic factors can relate to accessing senior services, 73 older adults in South Frontenac Township were surveyed, and 16 interviewed about their use of services, barriers to services, and desire to be involved in the planning of services within their communities. The most common utilized service among respondents was health services, followed by library services and physical recreation services. When interviewed, the most common concerns included lack of reliable transportation for those unable to drive, lack of awareness and confusion around what services were available, and concerns around funding needed to have free or low-cost services. The most important barrier to accessing services in this sample was access to a personal vehicle. For rural communities to fully support the health of their aging residents, service providers will have to coordinate transportation efforts to reach those most isolated and in need. Further research should investigate how a more comprehensive rural transportation network might operate to bring isolated older adults to services offered in communities beyond their own.
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