Revealing the Information-Seeking Experiences and Needs of Older Adults in a Rural Saskatchewan Community
For the first time, more Canadians are over the age of 65 than under 15. A quarter of these seniors live in rural settings where communities struggle to provide the supports and services needed to age in place. Access to information and awareness of available resources is essential for successful aging in place. Despite living in an era where information seems readily available and accessible, research has shown older adults are often uninformed and disconnected. This may contribute to low service awareness and usage, challenges in system navigation, and high hospitalization rates. This research explores the information-seeking experiences and needs of older adults in one rural Saskatchewan village using case study methodology. Data collection methods included: a village-wide questionnaire for those 60 and over; interviews with older adults and stakeholders; and direct observation. The results of this research are consistent with previous research, revealing a paucity of local information resources. Lack of information is connected to the scarcity of local services and to lack of clarity regarding regional jurisdictional responsibility for this rural village. This study found that the preferred method of information dissemination is word-of-mouth. However, the absence of local services and geographic isolation of rural communities necessitates travel, which increases the challenge of obtaining in-person information. Additional challenges in finding information are encountered due to auditory and visual impairments among seniors, making the use of information sources outside of face-to-face contact challenging. While many organizations have moved towards web-based information to increase information access for rural and remote areas, this study reveals that older adults in the research community do not use technology enough to benefit from online information. However, the greatest strength of rural communities is a social environment that provides opportunity for information exchange. Informal caregiving practices and volunteerism within the community increases information flow, and improves the likelihood that information will reach even vulnerable older adults. Overall, this study finds that more needs to be done to improve access to information. Future research could focus on the development of interventions in consultation with rural older adults to best meet their information needs.
Information access, Rural
Master of Science (M.Sc.)
Community Health and Epidemiology
Community and Population Health Science