Forum explores struggles faced by local seniors

Wilfried Muller of Services Aux Aînés des Collines presented the findings of research done on behalf of local seniors at a forum in Wakefield November 9.

Carl Hager

 WAKEFIELD – The Services Aux Aînés des Collines organization, headquartered in Cantley, QC, with representation from the MRC des Collines, including the Municipality of Pontiac, advocates for the well-being of local seniors. The organization’s most recent activity was a forum held on November 9 at the Centre Wakefield La Pêche on the results of its research into the needs of seniors. Almost 200 seniors were consulted for the project.

Attendance at this forum included the mayor of Chelsea Pierre Guenard and the MRC des Collines Warden Marc Carrière. The results of this research effort were presented by Wilfried Muller. A presentation was also given at the Quyon Community Centre on November 14. Seniors participated by means of group discussions, individual interviews, or questionnaires. The four areas of concern included food, lodging, transportation, and home care. 30% of respondents said they have had to change food choices because of the high cost. This has reduced their ability to consume fresh fruits and vegetables as well as fresh quality protein. Solutions suggested included group purchasing and sharing-freezers.

The research also showed that housing has become problematic because a significant portion of seniors cannot keep up the maintenance of their homes, nor can they maintain the outside part of the property. At least 15% of seniors said they will have to leave their residence. They expressed the need for better renovation information and services. They also indicated the need for smaller places to live.

Transportation presents a major difficulty because many seniors can no longer drive, their families are too far away to help, and public transportation is limited or non-existent. In addition, many require adapted transportation. A large number of respondents were not aware of the available services. This results in many seniors living in isolation, which is detrimental to maintaining good mental health. Anxiety and depression were often effects felt.

As far as home services are concerned, 60% of respondents said they do not have the needed services. Seniors must rely on family and friends and for some this is not ideal. Seniors, the research found, prefer to receive communication by means of newspapers, television, telephone, and direct conversation. As one respondent quipped, “My computer is part of my home decor.”

The forum was well attended by about 70 people. The event was found to be well worth the effort and many said that this was only the beginning of finding better solutions for seniors in our rural areas. A panel discussion explored the issues in depth and questions were posed about the current lack of viable initiatives that would provide real solutions for the needs of seniors.