New survey reveals seniors avoiding assistive devices even when at risk for serious injury

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  VANCOUVER, Mar 23, 2009 (Canada NewsWire via COMTEX) —-National PSA featuring "Charlie Farquharson" uses humour to tackle issue

A recent IPSOS-Reid survey commissioned by the BC Institute of Technology’s Living Laboratory, found that seven-in-ten Canadian seniors report having a mobility or health issue that reduces their quality of life due to a physical limitation and that in many cases increases their risk of falling. However, 46 per cent of them do not use an assistive device (cane, walker, scooter, etc).

Most notably, while 96 per cent of all seniors surveyed felt that assistive devices (ADs) are a good way to prevent falls, the majority (63%) of those who reported having a fall in the past year (20%) do not use an AD. Falls are known to reduce life expectancy for seniors by 25 per cent and cost the Canadian health care system an estimated $1 billion annually (Public Health Agency of Canada).

The results reveal there is a significant discrepancy between seniors’ need to adopt ADs when early warning signs appear and their willingness to do so.

"In our work with seniors, we’ve observed that they often delay using assistive devices too long even when it is clear that they need them because they fear the device will stigmatize them as being old and vulnerable," affirms Christine Flegal, Research Head, BCIT Living Laboratory.

The survey indicated that two-thirds of seniors believe AD usage is a threat to their security. However, according to Statistics Canada, seniors are in fact, the least likely to be targeted for crime. In 2004, 9.5 per cent in the 65-plus population as opposed to 28 per cent in the 15 to 24 years of age population were victims of at least one reported crime.

A third of seniors also believe that using ADs makes them appear "old and frail", and indicates that they are "losing their independence". Even among those seniors who have a medical condition that could affect their mobility, only 25 per cent currently use an AD (20% of the overall Canadian senior population).

To combat the stigma seniors feel about AD usage, BCIT’s Living Lab is launching this month a new 30-second Public Service Announcement featuring one of Canada’s most recognized and beloved seniors, Don Harron in character as his alter-ego "Charlie Farquharson". Made famous on the long-running US Television show "Hee Haw", Charlie’s appeal is strong with this audience and he delivers to fellow seniors a ‘tough love’ message with humour intended to help keep them mobile, independent and safe. The PSA also offers a free phone number (1-888-441-0771) and a web site where seniors and their families can access more information. It is

"We wanted to tackle this problem head-on by enlisting the help of a well-known senior who can bring the topic of stigma out into the open," said Flegal. "Using Charlie’s ‘tough love’ message delivered with humour, the goal of this campaign is to help seniors access the right information and most importantly to help them embrace their age and take the necessary steps to maintain their independence, safety and quality of life for as long as possible."

Flegal, a gerontologist is visiting the following cities to talk about the Mobility: Now you’re going places program and the PSA:


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