'Poor place to grow old:' UCC study looks at older people in rural communities

A partnership between Age Action and the School of Applied Social Studies at UCC, this study explores the views of older rural residents in Ireland about ageing in place, including where they choose to live and the enablers or barriers they face to remain in their homes and local areas as they age.
'Poor place to grow old:' UCC study looks at older people in rural communities

The report published by researchers at University College Cork (UCC) in collaboration with Age Action, Ireland’s leading advocacy organisation for older people and ageing, has found that most older people living in rural areas express a strong desire to remain in their homes and communities as they age, but highlights the barriers they face in doing so.

A new UCC study, carried out in association with Age Action, has found that nearly one in five older people surveyed in rural Ireland believe their community is a poor place in which to grow old.

The report published by researchers at University College Cork (UCC) in collaboration with Age Action, Ireland’s leading advocacy organisation for older people and ageing, has found that most older people living in rural areas express a strong desire to remain in their homes and communities as they age, but highlights the barriers they face in doing so.

A partnership between Age Action and the School of Applied Social Studies at UCC, this study explores the views of older rural residents in Ireland about ageing in place, including where they choose to live and the enablers or barriers they face to remain in their homes and local areas as they age.

A survey conducted as part of the study found that 78% of respondents said it was very important to them to remain in their homes as they grow older, and the sense of attachment to home and place had, for many, strengthened since the pandemic.

The top supports participants in the survey identified as required to age in place in their homes include:

  • The need for a home repair/ maintenance service (93%), 
  • Accessible and affordable home-help packages (85%), 
  • Help in applying for grants for home modifications (84%), 
  • Requirement for a monitored personal alarm (84%), 
  • Financial help for the upkeep of the home (66%).

Just 27% of survey respondents rated their community as an excellent place in which to grow older, 54% rated it as good, and 19% rated it as poor.

Community supports older people living in rural identified included access to broadband, accessible public transport, shopping, postal, and healthcare facilities, and local community Gardaí.

Principal Investigator, Dr Siobhan O’Sullivan of UCC's School of Applied Social Studies and Institute of Social Sciences in the 21st Century (ISS21) said:

“It was wonderful to collaborate with Age Action and their members on this important research that identifies the experiences and wishes of older people living in rural areas across Ireland on ageing in place. Our research highlights the multiplicity of factors that, along with housing, would help support older people to remain in their homes and communities in rural areas. 

"We hope that this research contributes to ensuring that older people can exercise their agency in meaningful ways, have their voices heard, and their needs and preferences for where and how they age realised.” 

 Age Action advocacy manager Celine Clark said: "This research provides strong evidence of the preference for older people living in rural areas to age in their homes and in their communities. We welcome the participatory nature of this research which is contributing to Age Action’s policy and advocacy work, and we hope it informs other policy makers and advocacy organisations to support people to age in place. We endorse the recommendations of the research which highlight the need to reimagine the provision of care and to develop housing supports and options to enable quality ageing in place and strengthen age friendly communities across Ireland."

At the heart of the research, funded by the Irish Research Council New Foundations Scheme, is the voice of older people who live in rural areas.

The study involved a participatory approach to bring the distinctive voice, experiences, knowledge, and ability of older people into the research process.

A total of 218 older people (ranging in age from 55 to over 91 years) who live in rural areas across every county in Ireland took part in the survey, and 19 older people (aged from 55 to 84 years) also took part in focus groups

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