Well-Being Throughout the Senior Years: An Issues Paper on Key Events and Transitions in Later Life
Social Development Canada’s mission is “to strengthen Canada’s social foundations by supporting the well-being of individuals, families and communities and their participation through citizen focused policies, programs and services” (Social Development Canada 2005a). Well-being is a concept that goes beyond good health to encompass physical and mental fitness as well as social fitness (being able to perform one’s social roles and the demands of everyday living adequately). As people age, they experience a number of transitions in their lives. They may retire, change residence, loose a spouse, become a caregiver, and/or develop a health problem or disability. These transitions, especially when they occur around the same time, may impact on their well-being and independence and prevent them from being contributing members of society. This paper summarizes the research on what we currently know about the key events and transitions experienced by seniors, their impacts, and the resources seniors have or need to successfully cope with these events throughout the senior years. It will also review what we know about opportunities, gaps or barriers in accessing social support programs and service delivery designed to assist seniors in coping successfully with adverse events and life transitions. Issues to be considered include availability, access and costs of community support and home health care services. Finally, the paper will attempt to provide potential policy research directions to address current knowledge gaps. This is an extensive literature, and we have limited the scope by focusing on the last 10 years of Canadian research published in Journals and by Statistics Canada. We have favored research based on national studies in this review, though there are many excellent case studies and qualitative studies that add texture to our knowledge. Recognizing that the senior population is a very heterogeneous group, this review will examine (where the research permits) differences by senior life-course stages, and other target groups such as women, the disabled, visible minority, immigrants, Aboriginal peoples, sub-regions, low income, and persons living alone. This review of the literature has shown that while we have basic information about many of the transitions in seniors’ lives, there is very little information about the various life course stages or about various sub groups of society.
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