Project provides insight on seniors’ activities, needs
A recently-completed Photovoice project focusing on district seniors’ needs now will be made available for presentations and should prove a useful tool in raising awareness.
A partnership between the Assisted Living Action Group (A.L.A.G.) and Northwestern Health Unit, the project began in late July and was unveiled Oct. 3 at a strategic planning session for assisted living.
The two questions that were asked were: “What keeps you safe and healthy in the Rainy River District as you age?” and “What prevents you from being safe and healthy in the Rainy River District as you age?”
“We were asking people to identify struggles they’re facing, but also wanted to highlight the positive things that are in our district and that people are taking advantage of,” noted Nielson, adding the answers to these questions were given via photographs.
“The intention of it was to raise awareness and stimulate the discussion of the needs of seniors, sometimes the unique needs that, unless you’re one experiencing that need, you might not realize are a concern,” she reasoned.
“Doing it this way added a personal touch to the message.”
Photographs were taken through the rest of the summer. Then in September, the participants re-grouped to decide which ones would be used.
“We found that any time we got together, we’d start looking at the pictures people had taken and then it would spark another idea or another thing that they wanted to do,” Nielson recalled.
“One of the hardest parts was narrowing it down to what we should include and what we shouldn’t.”
The end result was a PowerPoint presentation demonstrating—in photos—a senior population which is proud, adaptive to their limitations, and fiercely independent.
Nielson said the project revealed the district has many physically active seniors who are determined to stay that way.
“We had one picture of ladies who had been meeting five days a week for the past 15 years just so they could get their morning exercise, get their walk in together,” she noted.
It also shows the benefits of socializing and getting fresh air outdoors, as well as the benefit of having pets as a source of companionship and entertainment.
“Pets give so much and ask so little,” says one caption.
But the project also outlined various needs.
“We found that a lot struggle with remaining independent,” said Nielson. “They don’t want to necessarily depend on anybody else to do things, but there are a lot of challenges.
“One of the major issues we talked about was around people losing their [driver’s] licence,” she added.
“When somebody loses their licence, they lose their independence, and right now, we don’t really have any public transportation so that a major challenge.
“There’s day-to-day things that, if somebody is fully able to do, they might take for granted, like cooking a meal, doing your laundry, cleaning up at home,” Nielson continued.
“But some of those things are a lot more of a struggle for somebody who’s becoming more limited with how physically active they’re able to be,” she stressed.
Other subjects spotlighted in the project ranged from safe use and storage of medication and financial security to the difficulty keeping up with yard work and snow removal to accessibility around the home.
“Some people were sharing pictures of their houses and bathrooms, and talking about accessibility issues,” Nielson said.
“Myself, looking in, I might look at something and not see an issue until the person tells me, ‘I have a really hard time getting into the bath tub. There’s just not enough room in there for me to have a walker in here. Or if I fall, there’s no way for me to get up.’”
Yet another issue is the lack of assisted living options available here.
Nielson said one particular individual is 99 years old and not able to qualify to get into Rainycrest.
“Her extended family doesn’t live nearby and she really struggles to live on her own,” noted Nielson. “She has a hard time seeing, she has a hard time hearing. . . .
“That was one of the things she shared with us—it’s really to let go of your independence, but at the same time, she has not even been able to do that even when she is willing to.
“So, we’re finding a lot of people are saying they need help to live on their own but they’re still wanting to live on their own,” Nielson remarked.
“They’re wanting to be independent. They don’t necessarily need a long-term care facility, like Rainycrest.”
Nielson said the presentation now will be shared widely by A.L.A.G. or its parent group, Seniors and Law Enforcement Together (S.A.L.T.)
It also may be posted on the S.A.L.T. website—www.ffsalt.com—once it is determined how best to do so.
“I see something like this having a lot of potential to start important conversations, even having people recognize that their loved ones may be struggling with these issues that they may not see,” said Nielson.
Those interested in seeing a presentation of the PhotoVoice project can contact Nielson at 274-9827 ext. 3639.
The group also can be e-mailed at email@example.com