Older people residing in rural areas could outrank their city dweller peers when it comes to social connectedness because they reap the health and social benefits associated with living in a small, relaxed and connected country community.
A new report from National Seniors Australia suggests that older adults living in the country may be better off than those living in the big smoke, while the number of older people living in rural communities continues to rise.
The report, Getting Involved in the Country: Productive ageing in different types of rural communities, found that, in general, older adults who live in rural areas feel safer, have a high level of social connectedness, enjoy more social interaction and have a high sense of trust toward others.
The organisation’s general manager of policy, Peter Matwijiw, commented that the research findings challenge typical assumptions about older rural residents being socially isolated.
“What we’ve show here is that older people in country areas aren’t being left behind and, [as a generalisation], are far from being depressed and lonely, as a large proportion of older people say that they go out of their way to give something back to their community,” said Mr Matwijiw.
Community participation, he said, depends on an older person’s health status, lack of opportunities, or lack of time.
“If there are opportunities and the older person is quite well, they will actually choose to participate and enjoy the activities that have meaning for them.
“It is about recognising that older people are willing to participate in the community and will develop and maintain community connections because they enjoy doing it and are willing to do it.
Mr Matwijiw stressed how important it is for aged and community care providers to recognise what motivates an older person to get involved in their community activities, so that they can then supply the right balance of services for the socially isolated.
“If health does restrict a person from participating, can we do something to improve their health? Can we do something about improving their mobility by providing innovative transport options in country areas?
“With the broadband network, do we know whether the broadband network will increase a person’s ability to participate in the community?
“If people do want to give back to their community, are there many ways of assisting them to get involved.
The research aimed to develop a better understanding of productive ageing in three different types of rural communities in rural Victoria.
The report also found that older people were the real driving forces in rural communities.
“By participating they are also contributing to a very important part of their rural community in terms of giving it some heart and soul.
“We do underestimate their value very much. But the issue comes back to making sure that there are options and opportunities for older people in rural areas. It’s important to make sure that they can participate in their community if and when they choose to do so.”
Source: Country versus city - Australian Ageing Agenda: Aged Care and Retirement Industry News and Issues
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