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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Planning for community-based services for the elderly in small towns in British Columbia Murphy, Aileen


Elders who are living independently in the community (independent elders refers to all seniors who are living in the community as opposed to in an institution) often require support services, housing and transportation services. Unfortunately, research on North American elders repeatedly points to deficiencies in the health and human services that are available in small towns when compared to those available in urban centres. A lack of specialized medical and social services, few housing options and no public transportation services are characteristic of most small towns. For this thesis, seniors, municipal officials and formal care-givers in sixteen small towns in British Columbia were surveyed in order to determine the needs of small town elders in this province and the effectiveness of the present system in addressing these needs. The results of the seniors' survey indicated that significant proportions of the elderly living in small B.C. towns require assistance in maintaining their homes and with transportation. While the elders who reported difficulties coping with housework tended to be receiving assistance, not all those who had difficulty with yardwork, repairs and transportation were being helped. The interdependence between the support service, housing and transportation related needs of the elderly was apparent from the survey results. An inventory of the community-based services available in the sixteen B.C towns revealed that size of town is related to the number of services. In general, the larger the town, the greater the array of services for the elderly. However, size of town was not the only determining factor. Towns in which the local community had become involved in the issue of community-based services for the elderly typically had services that were not available in towns of comparable size. Under the Canadian Constitution, the provincial government is primarily responsible for the provision of health and social services. However, there are constraints or obstacles inherent to small towns which prevent services from being provided by the province. These include the fact that in a small town there is generally a shortage of personnel and organizational resources which enable a community to secure needed services from senior levels of government. As well, the distances among people and between people and services in rural environments, as compared to in urban environments, require special consideration. The results of this examination of the small town elderly in B.C. and the community-based services available to them suggest that there is a need for improvement to the present system. Enhancing the involvement of the local community in the provision of community-based services for the elderly is suggested as a possible strategy. As well, services which are at an appropriate scale and accessible to the rural elderly need to be developed.

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