Mobility is a key determinant of the social, mental and physical well-being of older persons as it allows them to lead dynamic and independent lives. Social changes associated with aging, such as grown children leaving home, retirement and the loss of close friends impose an increased demand on mobility if the older person is to continue to actively engage in their community. The mobility of older persons is also closely linked to health outcomes. Limited mobility is a risk factor for disability and cognitive impairment, contributes to falls and subsequent fractures and is associated with an increased risk of mortality. Clearly, sustained mobility in older adults is key to promoting healthy aging.
Over 1.6 million British Columbians, about 40% of the population, currently live outside large urban centres (www12.statcan.gc.ca/health). Many non-urban residents have challenges accessing the same level of health care services as the population living in larger towns or cities. Barriers to accessing health care include: geographical isolation, lack of services within the community, shortage of trained personnel, and economic and systemic barriers. Cultural context and values also influence health care seeking behaviors. The built environment—the places in which people live, work and play—is also very different in a major urban centre versus a rural setting.
With respect to older adults, Statistics BC projects that the population aged 55 and over, will almost double from 1.3M in 2011 to 2.2M in 2036 (www.bcstats.gov.bc.ca). Compared with urban centres, rural communities have a larger percentage of elderly residents who tend to be in poorer health, have fewer doctors, hospitals, and other health resources, and face more difficulty getting to health services.
The Centre for Hip Health and Mobility (CHHM) is committed to listening to and engaging with the community and health leaders. We aim to identify and empower local champions who will work with us to develop, deliver and assess a model that we create together and to identify a pathway for sustained implementation so as to ensure improved and prolonged health benefits. Local champions include those we seek to hire/second and volunteers who self-identify to serve as partners, to support this initiative (e.g. community-based program assistant, school-based champion (teacher, principal or guidance counsellor), health care workers, community leaders and community members. We are positioned to take on this initiative given our existing partnerships in the regions and our substantial experience undertaking large scale initiatives with older adults. Depending on the wishes of the community, we envision that different parts of the program/model (i.e. falls clinic) will be adapted for the communities we partner with.