June 14 , 2007

Hamilton seniors lack awareness of support services

Hamilton, ON - While community support services are available in the community, a study by McMaster University indicates that people do not know where to turn to access those services.

In a telephone survey conducted in the spring of 2006, on average, 21% of 1,152 Hamilton residents, aged 50 and over, could identify a community support service. Participants were read a series of vignettes (hypothetical social or health problems) and asked to imagine themselves in the situation. They were then asked what they would do in such a situation and to name a community service that they would turn to for help.

The survey was conducted by the McMaster Centre for Gerontological Studies and the McMaster School of Nursing.

Study findings show that 93% of older adults were able to identify the need for assistance when presented with a social or health problem, however, only one to 41% of older adults were able to name an appropriate community support service.  Awareness was greater for services that provide assistance with parental dementia, care, grief recovery, and financial insecurity. There was little awareness for community support services assisting with situations such as leisure activities, spousal alcohol addiction, chronic disease, and safety and financial abuse. 

“Access to services in Hamilton is challenging because of the multiplicity of small agencies providing community support and the lack of a central access point,” said Margaret Denton, director of the McMaster Centre for Gerontological Studies. She added that as the health care system becomes more complex, navigating the system for older persons, their families and health care professionals will become more and more difficult.

Jenny Ploeg, associate professor, at McMaster’s School of Nursing, said that a number of community partners who were involved in the study will assist in the next phase: to come up with strategies to improve awareness of the services. Community support services are delivered in the home or the community, and include food services, transportation, day programs, volunteer visiting, and caregiver support services.

This project was funded by the United Way of Burlington and Greater Hamilton, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.  Project development was supported by the McMaster Community Care Research Centre, a partnership of over 30 public and voluntary community care agencies in Hamilton.

The full and summary reports may be found at www.socsci.mcmaster.ca/gerontology/

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 125,000 in 125 countries.