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Real life lessons on seniors life in rural Saskatchewan

By Costa Maragos Posted: March 8, 2016 6:00 a.m.

Listening and learning from each other. Social Work students participated in workshops with seniors in the communities of Ituna, Preeceville, Melville and Norquay.
Listening and learning from each other. Social Work students participated in workshops with seniors in the communities of Ituna, Preeceville, Melville and Norquay. Photo courtesy of Nuelle Novik.

Students of a Social Work class have received some real-life lessons on the realities of being a senior in rural Saskatchewan.

Social Work 416 was taught by Nuelle Novik, associate professor with the Faculty of Social Work. The class included students from the U of R and Parkland College in Yorkton. The students participated in workshops in the communities of Ituna, Preeceville Melville and Norquay talking and spending time with seniors. The feedback from those workshops will be included in professor Novik’s research project that examines the emotional and mental healthcare supports for seniors in rural Saskatchewan.

Raynelle Townsend
Rayne Townsend

One of the students, Rayne Townsend, happens to be from Preeceville and shared her thoughts with us on the project. 

Being able to practice my social work skills in my home town was an amazing experience, and has been a desire of mine since I began my journey to complete my Bachelor of Social Work degree. By being given the opportunity to spend the day with older adults in Preeceville, I was able to learn about the struggles that they face each day, the concerns they have personally, and the changes that older adults want to see made – especially within a rural setting. Being able to interact with members of my own community, while tapping into the skills that I have learned as a Social Work student was nothing short of incredible.

Seniors Concerns

Issues such as transportation, housing, and a lack of opportunities to interact with youth were topics that were identified by the older adults. The main concern that I heard expressed was that older adults, especially those living on farms or living alone, have few available options for accessing transportation services. Driving out of town for medical appointments for some is nearly impossible. Simple excursions uptown to pick up groceries or the mail can also become a daunting task, especially in the winter months.

No simple solutions

Our group discovered that each idea for a solution seemed to create further concerns or struggles. For example, using the Town handi-bus to pick up those older adults in need of transportation was an idea shared in my group discussion. However, issues surrounding bus fees, finding a bus driver, the cost of liability insurance, and the expense of vehicle upkeep were all concerns that made this option seem impossible to establish in the community.

Nuelle Novik
Nuelle Novik

Gaining a better understanding

Listening to the concerns and ideas expressed by older adults in rural areas has allowed me to gain a better understanding. This understanding certainly includes the fears, issues and obstacles that older adults are continually facing, but it also includes a new awareness of their strengths, resilience, and pioneering nature. Regardless, I now understand more clearly that more attention and action is required to ensure that the needs of older adults, especially in rural areas, are being met. This group of individuals has earned the right to have access to the services and supports that they need in order to live happy, fulfilling and independent lives in the communities and environments that feel familiar and safe for them.

Enhancing social work skills

My opportunity to participate in the Preeceville community workshop contributed significantly to my growing knowledge as a Social Work student. Attending this workshop allowed me to begin to feel more comfortable and confident with the skills I have obtained throughout my university journey thus far. I believe that the inclusion of this kind of experiential learning will not only benefit Social Work students, but also creates opportunities to benefit target group participants (older adults), and communities. Community-based experiences – that take students out of the classroom and into the community - allow people in society to learn more about Social Workers and the value of our skill base

Rayne Townsend will complete her social work studies this year at the U of R.
Professor Novik’s research study, to be released later this year, received funding from the Canadian Mental Health Association (SK Division) and from the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation. Additional funding to cover the costs of the workshops was provided by the Office of the President of the U of R and the Office of the Dean of the Faculty of Social Work.

Students in Preeceville
Social Work students at the Preeceville community workshop. (Photo courtesy of Nuelle Novik).

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