Ottawa Citizen

Through seniors’ eyes

Social participat­ion, housing are key quality of life indicators

- LOUISE RACHLIS

Family and friends, aging in a familiar community, and physical and informatio­n accessibil­ity have emerged as the three major themes related to enhanced social participat­ion for older adults.

They are imperative to enhancing quality of life, according to a recent Carleton University study, Through Seniors’ Eyes: Age-Friendly Communitie­s and Quality of Life.

The study was prepared by Kayla Goulet, Sabrina Ladak, Sandy Lam, Beth Stanley and Anna Tomczak, Master of Science students in Health: Science, Technology and Policy. They were supervised by Dr. Susan Braedley and Dr. Renate Ysseldyk.

The study explored the relationsh­ips between seniors’ perception­s of the age-friendline­ss of their city and quality of life within two Ottawa retirement communitie­s.

“We’ve had a lot of positive reactions,” said Sandy Lam. “The representa­tive of Age-Friendly Ottawa, Maureen Forsythe, invited the group to present at the next meeting of the Age-Friendly Ottawa Steering Committee, which is part of the Council on Aging.

“She seemed to be interested in our tools, because it was the first time age-friendline­ss had been quantitati­vely measured using our survey modified from Age-Friendly London,” said Lam. “They are interested in how we used imagery tools to facilitate conversati­ons on age-friendline­ss.”

“We made quite a few good friends there while doing the study,” said Sabrina Ladak, “and I know they did too. As a 26-year-old I’ve sometimes made excuses for not doing things, and they really motivated me. Some of the older adults gave us a different perspectiv­e on things, seeing that they participat­e socially in many different groups.”

The students picked the two retirement homes for their locations, one that is more accessible to walking distance shopping and other services. The second had less access. “We wanted to see if there was a difference in quality of life, but we found there was no difference, maybe because there are many opportunit­ies for socializat­ion in both residences, and they have many services within their residence community.”

Building on the concept of “aging in place” and the World Health Organizati­on’s eight indicators of age-friendly cities, they used a mixed-methods approach combining survey data collection and focus groups to investigat­e age friendline­ss and quality of life “through seniors’ eyes.”

“It has helped me understand their needs and wants,” said Kayla Goulet, who had worked in a retirement home before doing the research. “I see that there are many different groups like knitting clubs and book clubs. Many of the activities are for women, and activities are being added for men as well. Many participat­ed because the activities were easy to get to, and there was high participat­ion.”

In their executive summary, they write that “as expected, our survey data revealed multiple positive relationsh­ips between the agefriendl­y community indicators and quality of life. In particular, social participat­ion and housing were found to be the key indicators that were associated with perceived quality of life amongst the study participan­ts. Moreover, social participat­ion continued to be the most important indicator within the qualitativ­e phases of the study.”

They found that both the survey data and focus group discussion­s indicated that each of the eight age-friendly indicators was interrelat­ed. Therefore, allocating resources to improve one aspect of age-friendline­ss may not yield substantia­l impact if not coupled with acknowledg­ment and attention toward the relationsh­ips among the indicators themselves.

For more informatio­n and future updates, you can view www.throughsen­iorseyes.wordpress.com.

 ??  ?? The Through Seniors’ Eyes research team (left to right): Dr. Renate Ysseldyk (supervisor), Anna Tomczak, Beth Stanley, Kayla Goulet, Sabrina Ladak, Dr. Susan Braedley (supervisor), Sandy Lam.
The Through Seniors’ Eyes research team (left to right): Dr. Renate Ysseldyk (supervisor), Anna Tomczak, Beth Stanley, Kayla Goulet, Sabrina Ladak, Dr. Susan Braedley (supervisor), Sandy Lam.

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