Juanita Bacsu is a recent PhD graduate from the department of Community Health and Epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan. Her PhD work focused on cognitive health perceptions among older adults in rural Saskatchewan. She is a board member of the Canadian Rural Health Research Society (CRHRS). Her research interests include dementia, health beliefs and practices, rural aging, and health policy.
Cognitive Health and Rural Aging: Ageism, Implications, and Next Steps
Research indicates that there is prevalent ageism attached to poor cognitive health and memory loss in older adults. Ageism related to poor cognitive health manifests itself in various ways such as day-to-day communication and language. However, there is little research on the role of ageism in relation to cognitive health within a rural context. This presentation will explore some of the key factors as well as the implications of ageism towards poor cognitive health in rural communities.
Guided by ethnographic methodology and a community-based research approach, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 42 seniors in rural Saskatchewan, Canada. Drawing on theories of culture and the World Health Organization’s Active Aging Framework, data were coded using thematic analysis. Although ageism was not the rural cognitive health study’s main focus, it was identified as an emerging issue.
Some of the factors related to ageism and poor cognitive health included: usage of derogatory language (e.g., “bonkers” and “vegetable”), myths about aging, and inadequate access to health and support services. Implications of ageism ranged from social exclusion to limited opportunities for dialogue to discuss cognitive health within the community. Further research is necessary to explore the contributing factors, implications, and interventions to reduce ageism towards cognitive health among rural seniors.