The Role of Support Services in Promoting Social Inclusion for the Disadvantaged Urban-dwelling Elderly

Disadvantaged older adults living in non-family situations in Toronto are more likely than older adults living in family situations to have less economic security, less social support, and less choice in housing. Older adults who live in poverty and are precariously housed are more likely to be chronically ill, to live with multiple illnesses, to have poor nutrition, high stress and loneliness, all of which are strongly associated with the determinant of health social exclusion. The aim of this study is to: 1) evaluate the level of social disadvantage and exclusion experienced by low-income older adults 65 years of age and older living alone or in non-family situations; 2) assess the level of dependency on government and community services (support services) to maintain a reasonable standard of living (minimize effects of social exclusion); and 3) identify consequences of social exclusion not addressed by current available services.

Fifteen male older adult members of the Good Neighbours’ Club in downtown Toronto were interviewed. Semi-structured questionnaires assessed barriers to, utility of, and perceived impact of support services available to disadvantaged older adults living in the central core of southeast Toronto.

Support services for income, housing, food security, social support, and health care do mitigate the effects of social exclusion in the study participants. Data gathered from interviews identified factors that counter the efforts by support services to increase social inclusion in this population.

Support services reduce social isolation experienced by these older adults. Evidence of the detrimental impact of low financial literacy suggests a need to design and implement training programs to build the older adults’ capacity to manage their own finances effectively, and resist falling victim to financial fraud.

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Journal Name: 
Canadian Geriatrics Journal