According to Food Banks Canada, seniors account for 6.3% of food bank users across the country. However, local food bank statistics in rural Southwestern Ontario indicate that seniors account for 10-20% of clients.
This summer, a research team is working in the region to investigate Food Insecurity and Rural Seniors Living Independently. Professor Al Lauzon and Valencia Gaspard of the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, University of Guelph are supervising two local students, Emma Warren from Listowel (a second-year medical student at Trinity College in Dublin) and Valerie Steckle from Zurich (a Master’s of Global Health student at McMaster University) as they work on the research project. The study team is interviewing medical professionals, service providers, home care staff and public health officials to determine the barriers preventing older people from accessing nutritious meals in Huron, Perth, Grey, and Bruce Counties. Valerie and Emma were connected with Dr. Lauzon through Gateway Centre of Excellence in Rural Health, a local not-for-profit organization that aims to improve the health and quality of life of rural residents through research, education and communication. Through this partnership, the students are working locally at Gateway’s office in Goderich.
Food insecurity is defined as a state in which consistent access to adequate food is limited. Food insecurity can be classified into three categories:
One in eight Canadian households are currently food insecure. Research suggests that when people are unable to meet their most basic living needs, such as housing and heating, they make difficult trade-off decisions with more flexible expenses, including food.
When compared to food secure seniors, food insecure seniors are more vulnerable to a wide range of chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, arthritis, and back problems. They are also more likely to be diagnosed with multiple chronic conditions. Additionally, there is a particularly strong relationship between food insecurity and poor mental health (e.g., depression, anxiety, mood disorders and suicidal thoughts).
In Canada, the proportion of older adults is rapidly increasing amidst constant threats to the social safety net. There are current concerns regarding increased costs of living and a lack of government subsidies/pensions to keep up with inflation. In addition to income-based barriers, seniors in rural areas are subject to inadequate public transit and other accessibility barriers that exacerbate issues of food insecurity. Other contributing factors that may make seniors more vulnerable to food insecurity, include; cognitive decline, diminished mobility, low income, poor dental health and social isolation.
To combat the food security challenges facing our community, many programs and services have arisen across the four counties. Some examples of services include; food banks, cooking classes, tax clinics, and assistance filling out applications for government subsidies. Meal delivery services and community cupboards/food shares have also become increasingly popular, especially in towns where grocery stores have been permanently closed or are located on the town borders.
This exploratory study is being conducted to assess the food barriers faced by rural seniors and determine the implications for seniors’ health and wellbeing. This research will ultimately guide clinical practice, service provision and public policy development.
If you are part of an agency that has information relating to this topic, or if you would like to stay informed on the status of the study, email Dr. Al Lauzon at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.gatewayruralhealth.ca.
For the past year, the Lonely No More program has been providing an opportunity for isolated and at-risk seniors in rural Huron, Perth, Grey and Bruce counties to create new points of support as well as increase their social connections with other older adults in these communities. This has been done through weekly Elder Circles, which are teleconference calls consisting of an intimate group of seniors as well as trained volunteer facilitators. It is exciting to see the positive impacts this program has had on the senior participants involved. In an interview with CTV News, one of our senior participants, who was a part of the Elder Circles, commented, “I like it because, yeah, at least you talk to people” (https://london.ctvnews.ca/lonely-isolated-seniors-helped-by-weekly-phone-call-1.4325085).
During this past year, which was the pilot phase of the program, there were successes as well as certain challenges. In terms of senior involvement in the project, a total of 257 seniors took part in the project or experienced the activities from across the 4 target counties, in addition to 17 seniors directly involved in carrying out the project and its activities, including the project organizers and volunteers. However, the main challenge faced throughout the pilot phase was the recruitment of isolated senior participants for the Elder Circle calls. In future, new strategies will be implemented to help overcome this challenge, including reaching out to close contacts of seniors in these areas, who would be more likely to come into contact with information regarding this program than the seniors themselves.
We would like to thank all our advisors and volunteers for all their hard work and dedication to making this program run smoothly and successfully. Also special thank you goes to the Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility, who provided funding for the pilot phase of the program. If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a part of the Lonely No More program, or for more information, please do not hesitate to contact Kia Moazzami, the Lonely No More project coordinator, at email@example.com.
On May 29, 2019, Sheila Schuehlein accepted her new position as the Research Chair of Rural Health Coaching at Gateway Centre of Excellence in Rural Health. Sheila has served on the Board of Directors for Gateway since 2013 and currently serves as a Director and Program Lead of Lonely No more, a program aimed at tackling the problem of social isolation in rural seniors. In her new Chair position, she hopes to improve the well-being of rural residents through collaboratively developing and facilitating innovative research projects and community programs using a 'coaching' approach to care. Sheila incorporates a client-centred empowerment approach in all aspects of her work and believes coaching is a missing link in our current health system.
To date, Sheila has been a secondary investigator on four research projects with her findings published peer-reviewed scientific journals. In 2014, she graduated from Duke University, completing the Integrative Medicine Health Coach Program. She was among the first cohort to successfully pass the American Board of Medicine Certification Examination for Health and Wellness Coaches, and one of only two Health Coaches in Canada with this level of expertise.
Sheila is the West Regional Consultant for Elder Abuse Ontario, a non-profit organization that aims to make Ontario a healthier place for aging individuals. For nearly 25 years, Sheila has developed, facilitated and evaluated health promotion initiatives geared to age related issues. For over a decade, she has also served as VON Canada’s National Seniors Wellness Project's Manager. In this role, Sheila assisted communities across the country to develop exercise programs, such as the VON SMART (Seniors Maintaining Active Roles Together) Programs®. These programs help combat social isolation and improve balance, cardiovascular health and strength in senior citizens. In 2010, Sheila’s work was recognized in the Chief Public Health Officer’s ‘Report on Public Health in Canada’.
Gateway is happy to have Sheila join the team of Research Chairs, all working to deliver on the mission to improve health and quality of life for rural residents through education, communication, and research. To learn more about Gateway’s projects, visit www.gatewayruralhealth.ca
Written by: Sarah Versteeg BSc (Hons), MSc, Administrative Lead at Gateway
One in three farmers met the criteria for depression in a survey of farmers across Canada. In this same survey, 40% of farmers reported they would feel uneasy getting help because of what other people think. But there are many supports available, and there shouldn't be a stigma on mental health. Farming has its own unique stresses, and Gateway is working to address some of these issues.
On Wednesday, January 23 a meeting hosted by Hensall Co-op saw over 100 poultry producers gather for a regional meeting where they discussed topics like chicken health, barn construction, market conditions, and even their own mental and lung health. Gwen Devereux, talked about the founding of Gateway, and some of the programs we have run to date. One such program is Lonely No More, an outreach program that targets isolated rural seniors that might be dealing with loneliness, and its affect on overall well being.
The talk with poultry producers was joined by Rose-Marie Dolinar by web conference. Rose-Marie has previous experience with this group, having conducted a Lung Health Study that investigated ways to improve proper respirator use (Results posted HERE). Rose-Marie is currently doing research on resiliency at the University of Calgary, and wanted to make an important distinction between mental health and resiliency.
Mental Health affects how we think, feel and act, and determines how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.
Resilience is the process of adapting well, "bouncing back" when significant sources of stress occur, such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, threat of loss of livelihood.
There are many mental health resources available: talk with family, friends, health providers, faith leaders, and get lots of rest! If you become exhausted or depressed or have high levels of anxiety, get help immediately.
The path to mental wellness is achieved by taking time for yourself, making healthy choices and having supportive friends along the way. Do the activities you love, with people who make life fun, and acknowledge that we all need a little help sometimes.
Gateway CERH & Nipissing University are once again collaborating to provide placement for community projects as part of the Nipissing University Distant Learning Program. This semester a Gateway Board Member Gwen Devereaux RN is mentoring two nursing students.This is the third cohort of nursing students that Gateway has hosted. Devereaux stated she really enjoys assisting these ambitious and dedicated students who are working full time in our communities and at the same time, carrying out a study and placement program, that over five years will lead to a BScN.
“I graduated from HealthKick’s local Practical Nursing Program and began my nursing career in 2010 as a Registered Practical Nurse in Wingham & District Hospital. The fact that I would be able to pursue a college education in a field I loved and was passionate about was very important. Being able to obtain my education locally was extremely instrumental in where I am today. To further develop my nursing career while working with Listowel Wingham Hospitals Alliance, I returned to school to obtain my nursing degree (RPN-BScN Distance Learning Program) at Nipissing University. The opportunity to work with Gateway Centre of Excellence in Rural Health to complete part of my program locally,means everything.”
“I currently am working on my 3rd year of the Bachelor of Nursing Degree from Nipissing University. I completed a Bachelor of Health Science (2005) from Western University and the Practical Nursing Program(2013) from Georgian College, through HealthKick in Huron County. I am currently working as an RPN at AMGH while completing my community nursing semester. I am excited to be working for 4 months with Gateway Centre of Excellence in Rural Health.”
Gwen Devereaux R.N.
Vice President Gateway Board of Directors
“We are very happy to assist our nursing students this year. Gateway’s mission is to improve the health and quality of life of rural residents through research, education and communication. We are always interested in researching health issues relevant to our local community members. There is no better way than to assist our local health care professionals to advance their education. Once again we have two very bright students and we are delighted to help.”
Al & Hickmott have identified a need for information and education around the legalization of recreational cannabis. They are looking at strategies to increase community awareness. Gateway CERH is very interested in learning from this important project.
Huron County is thrilled to announce a new service for the communities of this region. Dr Alexandrea Peel, Geriatrician, has opened clinics at Goderich, Clinton and Wingham Hospitals.
Dr Peel grew up on a farm near Wingham and has returned with her husband Andy (from the Lucknow area) and new son Cohen. After completing medical school, a residency in internal medicine and her fellowship in Geriatrics, all leading her to several communities across Ontario, she chose to come home.
We are an aging population. This region has a higher proportion of elderly residents than similar communities in Ontario. An influx of retiring seniors from urban areas attracted to the beauty of the region and the strong medical services contributes to the need for specialized services of this nature.
A geriatrician is an internal medicine physician with additional training in caring for older adults with complex health care needs and assisting their caregivers with their care. Geriatricians provide a comprehensive consultation and treatment plan as well as follow up visits in collaboration with family doctors or nurse practitioners. Examples of common reasons to see a geriatrician include multiple health problems, hospitalizations or emergency visits, multiple medication side effects, falls, memory problems, or trouble managing at home. Dr. Peel also provides home visits and visits to long-term care or retirement home or to hospital inpatients when required. A referral from your family doctor or nurse practitioner is required.
We are very fortunate to have a tremendous health care system with hospitals, family health teams, long term care facilities, home care, a rural health research centre and retirement communities and now we have an opportunity to deliver advanced specialized care to more individuals. Adding a Geriatrician is an important step for our community. Dr. Peel hopes to secure funding from the community and the Ministry of Health & Long Term Care to develop a specialized interdisciplinary team who can respond to urgent health concerns of frail older adults and their caregivers. The goal is to provide the system navigation and medical intervention to prevent reliance on the emergency department and hospital system for issues that can be managed in the community. This team would be closely supported by Geriatricians, Geriatric Psychiatrists, and Care of the Elderly Physicians.
To determine the older patient’s state of health Dr. Peel does a comprehensive geriatric assessment. Her new consultations are usually 1.5- 2 hours in length. Evidence has shown this intervention improves quality of life and health outcomes for older adults.
Across Canada there are only approximately 300 physicians specifically trained in geriatrics. “It is our goal to establish excellent accessible senior care in this region and we look forward to communicating with key stakeholders in our community” said Devereaux.
Dr Peel is also a clinical teacher who hosts other prospective Geriatricians and Care of the Elderly Resident Doctors from Western University. Her first resident arrived this fall! She hopes to attract more Geriatricians, Geriatric Psychiatrists, and Care of the Elderly Physicians to practice in rural areas.
“I am so lucky to be warmly welcomed back to the community I grew up in. Caring for older people and their caregiver requires a village of supporters. All of the family doctors and family health teams, hospitals, long-term care facilities, retirement homes, Alzheimer’s societies, senior’s mental health services, geriatric nurses have been so helpful in setting up my practice. There is lots of work to be done and I have the best team around me” said Dr. Peel.
Newly elected Mayor of Goderich John Grace said “Welcome Dr Peel! Your arrival means so much to the delivery of healthcare to rural Ontario and in particular within our region. With the demographic shift in rural Ontario, it is absolutely essential to have a Geriatrician as one of our healthcare providers to complement the growing need. This is welcome news. As Mayor of Goderich, I couldn’t be happier.”
You are all the Hometown Heroes of the 5th Annual Hometown Heroes Hockey Game
$55 000+ raised. 1000+ tickets printed. 80 silent auction donations. $3300+ in 50/50 tickets. 150+ pucks chucked. 50+ volunteers. 28 players. 3 deserving causes. Infinite support from a countless number of you. And yet, all we can come up with is 2 words: Thank you.
All of us at Gateway wish we could specially thank each and every person who supported this year's Hometown Heroes Hockey Game. As a non-profit organization serving the community through improved rural health care, charitable funding truly does make all the difference. We are proud to be working towards a brighter future and improved health for all of the Hometown Heroes in Huron, Perth, Grey, and Bruce Counties; all of you.
This year, the Gateway Centre of Excellence in Rural Health is celebrating our 10 year anniversary! Founded in 2008, we will be posting regular videos to our new Youtube Channel this year to summarize our past successes, and talk about the future of the organization.
Rent free retirement living for young students in exchange for senior companionship and intergenerational mentorship. This is the solution Nipissing University nursing students Lori Sneddon and Kelley Nedza have outlined titled “The Intergenerational Living Model”.
Over the past months, Sneddon and Nedza have been completing a community placement project in collaboration with Gateway Centre of Excellence in Rural Health in Goderich, ON. Through the guidance of Gwen Devereaux R.N., they have had access to many of the area’s most notable senior resources such as Goderich Place, Harbour Hill Retirement Community, and the McKay Centre for Seniors. While touring these places, both students recognized the beneficial programming that is in place for older adults living in the Goderich area. They also noted the potential for other initiatives for our progressively aging population. Thus, drafting a Goderich intended intergenerational living model.
In a brief presentation given at Gateway Centre of Excellence in Rural Health on March 27th, both Sneddon and Nedza outlined the benefits of the model. The model would initially consist of nursing students living amongst the retirement community, which could be extended further into occupational/recreational therapy students, and even plumber or electrician apprenticeships. The students would live within the retirement home rent free in exchange for 30hrs of volunteer companionship with the other residents. Both students are very confident in the idea they have outlined, stating the only barriers to their model would be lack of interest or lack of funding.
Based off similar fully functioning models in The Netherlands, both students conducted research as to why they believe this model could be implemented in Huron County. They found that although Goderich has many effective resources and initiatives, geriatric loneliness and social isolation is still very prevalent. This model could improve social interaction, cognitive stimulation, and coping strategies which in turn will increase overall health, and reduce the instances of dementia, depression, and hypertension in seniors. Through a three “S” system they would hope the model would allow for older adults be supported, safe, and socially connected. In addition to the health benefits for the individuals, this model would greatly benefit the community by integrating inspired youth into our rural areas.
Gateway Centre of Excellence in Rural Health is very excited about the model and would like to see how it can be further implemented after the nurses leave to pursue the rest of their degree. Thank you, Lori and Kelley, for all your hard work and we wish you the best of luck in your future schooling and research!
The Nipissing University Bachelor of Science in Nursing Community Health Clinical Practicum Placement provides an invaluable opportunity for third year nursing students to work collaboratively to perform a community assessment, and develop a meaningful project that will enhance the health of a community. Two such students currently engaged in completing their community placement, Lori Sneddon of Listowel, and Kelley Nedza of Grand Bend, are presently working at the Gateway Centre of Excellence in Rural Health located in Goderich, Ontario.
Under the direction of Gwen Devereaux R.N., students Sneddon and Nedza have chosen to assess the gaps in programming for Huron County Seniors. They are specifically researching existing programming developed to combat loneliness and social isolation among this vulnerable population. “It is so enjoyable working with these nurses and I am re-energized by their enthusiasm for our profession! At Gateway we continue to assist students wishing to further their professional careers in health care and this project assists also in making aging in Huron County better. A win- win for all of us!” said Devereaux.
After introducing the two students to current programming and initiatives at Goderich Place and the Harbour Hill Retirement Community, the students expressed amazement at the volume of current resources provided. Nedza stated “being here has broadened my knowledge of community rural health and a different specialty of nursing.” Sneddon stated, "I am impressed with how Gateway is creating initiatives and projects to better the rural communities. I didn't realize that there were so many areas of nursing incorporated into the community and I am proud to be a part of it."
In addition to this twelve week long practicum placement at Gateway, Sneddon currently works full time as a Mental Health Nurse (RPN) at Homewood Health Centre in Guelph, and Nedza is working as a R.P.N. at LHSC and Clinton Hospital.
Both students look forward to completing their work in partnership with Gateway long after the conclusion of their clinical experience.