Risks of Social Exclusion for Rural Older People Explored In New Report
- Northern Ireland
- Republic of Ireland
A new report funded by the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland (CARDI) finds that while growing old in rural areas can be a positive experience; there are also a number of factors which may lead to older people experiencing social exclusion.
The research calls for more innovative ways to support local areas to assist and engage older people in rural society and presents recommendations in order to assist in this task and to reduce the potential for older people to be excluded in rural communities.
The report ‘Social Exclusion and Ageing in Diverse Rural Communities’, was launched Monday, 20 February 2012 at NUI Galway by Ireland’s Minister of State for Disability, Equality, Mental health and Older People, Kathleen Lynch TD, and Northern Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Michelle O’Neill MLA.
Led by researchers at the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology (ICSG) and Queen's University Belfast, it identifies five areas where older people living in rural areas can be excluded. These domains of exclusion are: (1) social connections and social resources; (2) services; (3) transport and mobility; (4) safety, security and crime; and (5) income and financial resources.
- Four factors were identified which can determine the extent that a person is excluded: (1) individual capacities; (2) life-course trajectories; (3) place and community characteristics; and (4) macro-economic forces.
- Using these findings, ageing strategies being developed in Ireland and Northern Ireland have the opportunity to develop new programmes to combat social exclusion among rural dwelling older people.
- Maximising the autonomy, capacity and engagement of older people as well as building intergenerational solidarity in rural communities is key to tackling social exclusion.
Professor Eamon O’Shea, of ICSG, said:
“Our findings suggest that an older person’s experience of exclusion across these domains is influenced by such factors as individual disposition, life transitions, place characteristics, and macro-economic forces. It is this influence that determines the depth and extent of exclusion experienced. We came across many older people living in what would appear to be difficult circumstances, but a sense of belonging and keeping connected in their communities helped to maintain their quality of life.”
Older people in the study were generally happy with their lives and with where they lived and were optimistic about the future. However, factors such as service depletion, weak social connections and older people’s low expectations were highlighted as risk factors contributing to social exclusion among older populations.
In response to the research, Minister Lynch TD said:
“This most informative study on social exclusion and ageing in diverse rural communities in Ireland will be of great importance to planners and policy makers, service providers and community workers – North and South – in planning and implementing intervention strategies that target loneliness and social isolation in rural areas.. It tells us of the great diversity within the older population as a whole in Ireland and the very valuable contribution of older people to society. The research reminds us that good communities, good neighbours and attachment to place make life better – irrespective of personal circumstances.”
Minister O’Neill MLA welcomed the publication of the cross-border document said:
“As Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, and as a rural dweller, I am acutely aware of the difficulties facing many people living in our rural communities and particularly the elderly. This all-island research report highlights those many difficulties so that informed action can be taken. I congratulate the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology and the Healthy Ageing in Rural Communities (HARC) Research Network for this work.”
“Later this week I will be formally launching the ‘Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation’ framework which provides a package of some £16 million over the next four years to help the most vulnerable rural dwellers facing poverty and social isolation.”
Dr Roger O’Sullivan, Director of the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland (CARDI) funder of the research, commented:
“People who live in rural areas and experience exclusion are often invisible to society and this is particularly true for older people. With the launch of this report today those developing policy and services now have substantial evidence at hand to help make rural Ireland a good place to grow old.”
The report authors were Dr Kieran Walsh, Professor Eamon O’Shea and Professor Tom Scharf, from the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology at NUI Galway. The research was completed in collaboration with the Healthy Ageing in Rural Communities (HARC) research network (www.harcresearch.com), which is a cross-border interdisciplinary initiative involving
NUI Galway, Queen’s University Belfast, Rural Community Network and FORUM Connemara.
The research focussed on 10 rural communities across Ireland and Northern Ireland, including island, remote, dispersed, village and near-urban sites: Rathlin (Antrim) and Inishbofin (Galway) as islands; Garrison (Fermanagh) and Dromid (Kerry) as remote communities; Finnis (Down) and Coomhola (Cork) as dispersed communities; Clough (Down) and Upperchurch (Tipperary) as village communities; Donemana (Tyrone) and Rosemount (Westmeath) as near-urban communities.
Researchers carried out over 100 interviews with older people, and consultations with community stakeholders. The participating communities represented a geographical spread across the island of Ireland.
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