Feb. 6 , 2006

Survey aims to find out why Hamilton's older residents aren't aware of current services

Hamilton, ON - Hamilton residents will be asked to participate in a survey over the next two months to gauge awareness of community support services, and to find out why seniors do not take advantage of the many services available to them.

"This is a hot issue particularly as it relates to older adults," says Margaret Denton, director of McMaster University’s Centre of Gerontology. "On one hand, we have the growing number of seniors who, for reasons of mobility, illness or isolation, are not accessing some of the resources initially set up to serve them. On the other hand, we have the upcoming generation of seniors whom we currently refer to as the ‘sandwich generation’ – the children of seniors who are trying to help ageing parents while looking after their own families. The aim of this survey is to get a firm fix on gaps in the system, and then find ways to improve awareness and accessibility to those services."

Jenny Ploeg, a professor in McMaster University’s School of Nursing, says the survey will use a unique method of questioning based on a series of short stories that will deal with issues such as elder abuse, care giving, transportation, and the loss of a spouse. Over a two-month period beginning February 13, calls will be made to 1,200 residents over the age of 50 asking them to take part in the half-hour telephone survey.

Ploeg hopes to have preliminary results from the survey by the summer. The information will inform the community partners on different strategies to educate or boost awareness about services that are available in the community.

“On an ongoing basis United Way receives calls inquiring about whether specific services are available in the city of Hamilton, what agencies offer them and the contact information,” says Monica Quinlan, director of United Way’s Community Investment and Agency Relations. She says the calls come from adult children worried about a parent not eating enough after the death of a spouse, or about transportation to doctors’ appointments, or the need for prescription glasses.

Community partners include United Way of Burlington and Greater Hamilton, Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton, the Hamilton Community Care Access Centre, Catholic Family Services of Hamilton, Grocer-Ease, Regional Geriatric Program (Central), the Coalition of Community Health and Support Services, Community Information Hamilton, Seniors Activation Maintenance Program, Ontario Community Support and the Community Care Research Centre. 

The project is funded by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and United Way of Burlington and Greater Hamilton.

McMaster University, a world-renowned, research-intensive university, fosters a culture of innovation, and a commitment to discovery and learning in teaching, research and scholarship. Based in Hamilton, the University, one of only four Canadian universities to be listed on the Top 100 universities in the world, has a student population of more than 23,000, and an alumni population of more than 115,000 in 128 countries.