NUI GALWAY is to lead a cross-border research network which will explore “healthy ageing” in rural communities on the island of Ireland.
The network is the first of its type and will draw on expertise in social care and public health, gerontology, economics, spatial planning and rural geography.
It involves NUIG’s Irish Centre for Social Gerontology and its geography school; Queen’s University Belfast (QUB); and the Rural Community Network and Forum community group in Letterfrack, Co Galway.
The network, known as Health Ageing in Rural Communities (Harc), has received grant aid from the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland (Cardi). The Cardi programme aims to promote North-South partnerships on issues affecting older people, and the research will involve senior citizens with the aim of improving policies and services.
Kieran Walsh, of the NUIG Irish Centre for Social Gerontology, said although there is an over-representation of older people in rural areas throughout Ireland, research into rural ageing has been limited to small-scale studies.
There has also been a “total absence of any cross-border coordination”, Walsh said. “Even though there are many similar issues facing both regions, the cross-border and interdisciplinary study of rural ageing in Ireland has not been developed.”
“There is a lack of understanding of the difficulties and inequalities that face older people in rural areas, as well as the opportunities and benefits that are to be obtained from living in our villages and countryside,” Walsh said.
“This, in turn, makes it very difficult to get a full picture of rural ageing and undermines our ability to develop a long-term strategy for ageing in rural Ireland – both north and south of the border.
“Harc will allow us to share existing knowledge, identify key research questions for future study and ultimately increase the capacity for rural ageing research across Ireland,” he said.
The Harc initiative is a part of a broader research programme on rural ageing at the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology. The multidisciplinary research centre has been focusing on the economics of ageing; technology and ageing; and rural ageing. It has been awarded more than €5 million in funding since its establishment in 2006.
The cross-border network is one of six recipients of grant-aid recently announced by CARDI for all-island studies. Trinity College, Dublin (TCD), QUB, the University of Ulster (UU) and the Quality Initiatives consultancy will examine different standards in long-stay care, and will also work with older people to draw up specific standards to meet the needs of those diagnosed with dementia.
The transport needs of vulnerable older people, especially in rural areas, is the subject of another grant-aided study, which is due to be carried out by University College, Dublin, UU and Age Action Ireland.
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