Elizabeth Russell is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and Director of the Trent Centre for Aging & Society at Trent University, Canada. She teaches psychology courses in aging, health, qualitative research methods and the history of psychology, and supervises undergraduate and graduate students studying the psychology of aging and applied health psychology topics more broadly. Her research is focused on the sustainability of rural age-friendly communities programs, having worked in collaboration with communities in various Canadian provinces who have implemented age-friendly programs. Her research takes a collaborative, interdisciplinary and community-based approach to studying a variety of aging and health topics focused within rural communities.
Developing rural insights for building age-friendly communities
Elizabeth Russell, Trent University, Canada
Mark Skinner, Trent University, Canada
The age-friendly global movement emerged over a decade ago and programs have been implemented in numerous communities worldwide, often with the underlying goal of supporting older adults aging in place – living in their own homes or communities. In rural communities that are experiencing particularly rapid population outmigration and ageing, the immediate relevance of exploring themes related to rural age-friendly communities is increasingly important.
Notwithstanding a few exceptions, the global age-friendly literature remains mostly silent on the problem of the longer-term, sustainable implementation of age-friendly initiatives. This paper seeks to address this gap by presenting rural insights from a multi-site case study in Ontario, Canada, that considers the influence of unique, rural community contexts that may differentially impact parameters of success and longer-term sustainability among rural age-friendly programs.
Based on an iterative collaborative qualitative analysis, finding from interviews with 46 age-friendly leaders across five rural communities (representing different geographic locales and rural typologies with the province), demonstrated that the social (sense of community) and geographic (jurisdictional fragmentation) connectivity of individual rural communities directly influenced the opportunities and challenges of rural age-friendly implementation and sustainability.
Specifically, perceptions of connectedness in conjunction with an articulated, organized, and formally led community focus that streamlined partnership development may be linked to the program’s success and sustainability. In contrast, we found that implementing age-friendly programs in jurisdictionally fragmented rural areas such as those recently regionalized, amalgamated, or arbitrarily defined may, as a singular unit, be insufficiently connected to allow the program to overcome the implementation and sustainability challenges often faced by rural grass-roots organizations.
Rural insights on the implementation and sustainability of age-friendly programs demonstrates an additional pathway within age-friendly implementation and the need to articulate a rural age-friendly agenda that caters directly to the needs of rural older adults.