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166 Bedford Highway, Halifax, N.S., B3M 2J6  donald.shiner@msvu.ca

Project Methodology

This project was divided into four phases. Phases 1 and 2 focused on the demand for housing by Atlantic Canadian seniors; Phase 3 focused on available housing options and housing policy; and Phase 4 focused on the development of policy recommendations and dissemination of the ASHRA research results. The objectives and the methodologies used for each phase are described below.

Phase 1 - January 2005 - December 2005 (12 months). The objectives for
this phase were to ascertain the housing demand for the target population based on the 2001 Census data at the local level, using the first three digits of postal codes (Forward Sortation Areas or FSAs) and to predict the likely housing options needed by seniors based on health and wealth. A Geo-demographic Model (GDM) that identifies where our aging population is most likely to live for the next 20 years was developed. Geo-demographic models combine statistical projections with the richness of geographic or location-based information, allowing the development of dynamic maps that portray the changes in the selected population variables. Our model is based on age, gender, rural/urban status, the predictive factors of health outcomes and wealth (using standard measures of health states where available) and, where possible, culture for each FSA. The specific GDM activities included the following:

  • Designed the predictive GDM based on an existing model used successfully to predict seniors demand for assisted living choices.
  • Acquired the 2001 geo-demographic files for each of the 218 FSAs in Atlantic Canada.
  • Produced the model.
  • Posted the searchable GDM on this ASHRA website.

Phase 2 - January 2006 - June 2007 (18 months). The objective for this phase was to identify and analyze other determinants of demand for housing options relevant to an aging population, i.e., the expectations, desires, and fears. The methodology included the use of a survey (quantitative data) and focus groups (qualitative data) to collect information on housing needs and preferences. Activities included the following:

  • Adapted the CMHC “Seniors’ Housing and Support Services Survey” (1998) to produce ASHRA's Seniors' Housing and Support Services Survey. The original questions were maintained and augmented using feedback from provincial Research Implementation Teams formed for this purpose. Additional questions were devised to strengthen the CMHC instrument and allow the researchers to include measures of health outcome predictors. The sampling calculations for the modified CMHC survey are based on an infinite population since the populations all four Atlantic Provinces exceed 100,000 (as per standard statistical
    conventions). Proportionate random sampling was used to ensure that the categories of males and females aged 60-69 and 70-79 in rural and urban Atlantic Canada were represented in the sample in the same proportions as exist in the true population. To achieve a sample size based on a confidence interval of 4% (95% confidence level) at the provincial level, a sample size of 601 per province (a total sample of 2404) was required. With this sample size, the level of confidence in reporting on rural versus urban sub-groups, for example, had a confidence interval of 6% or better. The proportional representation within each provincial sample was built up from the actual proportions of males and females in each FSA that fell within the two target age groups of 60-69 and 70-79. This allowed the results to be linked back to the statistical model based on FSA files.
  • Distributed/mailed the ASHRA survey instrument through our collaborators, community partners, and other recruited organizations (2404 surveys). These collaborators, etc. received training on the administration and completion of the survey using tools such as a trainer CD, web-based instruction, and support from ASHRA staff at MSVU. This training enabled community organizations to assist seniors who required support to complete the survey.
  • Collected and analyzed survey data using SPSS.
  • Planned 15 focus groups based on the survey results and trained the moderators and facilitators for qualitative data collection and analysis. Training sessions for survey and focus group implementation with community collaborators and partners in the four Atlantic Provinces enabled collaborators and community partners to assist respondents with completing survey questions and increased the community partners' capacity in focus group methodology.
  • Conducted 15 focus groups in the four Atlantic Provinces - rural and urban focus groups in each province. Collaborators, partners, and stakeholder seniors’ groups in each province were involved in recruiting a diversity of focus group participants based on the criteria of age, gender, socioeconomic status, and culture.
  • Analyzed focus group data (sessions conducted in French were translated) using Qualitative Solutions Research Non-numerical Unstructured Data Indexing, Searching, and Theorizing (QSR), a computer package designed to aid qualitative analysis by the process of coding data in an index system, searching text or searching patterns of coding, and theorizing about the data. The data analysis was directed by the Co-Investigators responsible for the analysis, Drs. Lori Weeks (UPEI) and Kathleen Cruttenden (UNB).

Phase 3 - July 2007 – June 2008 (12 months). The objective for Phase 3 was to identify existing seniors' housing policies and programs in the Atlantic Provinces and to conduct studies of emerging, innovative seniors' housing options from around the world to determine their applicability to Atlantic Canada. Activities included the following:

  • Conducted Case Study site visits at a range of available housing choices for seniors, both in Canada, the U.S.A., and other countries.
  • Examined housing policies and programs for seniors within the Atlantic Provinces to build a detailed picture of the choices available at the time of the research. Secondary data analysis of the survey and focus group data, along with key informant interviews were conducted for each of the four Atlantic Provinces and used to inform this process.

Phase 4 - July 2008 – December 2009 (18 months). The objectives for this final phase of the research are to produce policy recommendations and to disseminate project results. Activities included the following:

  • Organized an Atlantic Seniors’ Housing Needs Conference that took place in May of 2009 at MSVU.  The Conference was attended by  a high percentage of stakeholders and other persons interested in seniors' housing issues.  The Conference was a major vehicle for disseminating the ASHRA research findings, and included interactive workshops that allowed participants to examine policy barriers and develop policy/program recommendations.
  • Finalized a gap analysis that identified the areas where supply and demand for seniors’ housing choices were likely to be mismatched, and that discussed the policy implications for each of the four Atlantic Provinces.
  • Developed recommendations on what types of housing need to be developed and where such housing should be located to meet the demand for seniors' housing over the next 20 years.

No-Cost Extension to September 2011. The objectives for this period did not involve any additional data collection efforts, rather the activities were tailored to meet the following objectives:

  • Compile the final report, which includes recommendations arising from both the project process and the Conference.
  • Assist the Provincial Stakeholder Groups to transition from operating with     support from the project to operating on their own beyond the life of the ASHRA grant.
  • Give ASHRA Co-Investigators time to conduct their own ASHRA research and to publish the resulting papers in peer-reviewed journals.

Project Outcomes

This research collaboration is an example of combining quantitative and qualitative research to provide richer detail. It is also unique in the nature and degree of community participation and the level of regional collaboration involved in the design and delivery of the research program.  Knowledge, resources, and expertise in seniors' housing issues and conducting community-based research was shared between academics/universities, government, and seniors' and community organizations.  Project analyses results on the housing programs and options available to Atlantic Canadian seniors, along with anticipated demand was presented at the Atlantic Seniors Housing Needs Conference in May 2009.  In addition, a policy analysis document was prepared, which is designed to assist government policymakers, housing developers, and community organizations in planning for seniors’ housing needs in the future. 

Capacity-building at the community level has also been achieved. We have been collaborating with community-based organizations since the project's inception and our work has facilitated dialogues about seniors' housing issues within provincial and regional settings. The value of the proposed model of participation for the collaborators and community partners is that it allowed interested stakeholders to be involved with the research at various levels of commitment. The reality for many organizations, particularly non-profit associations, is that they have very limited resources, both staff and volunteers. The ASHRA project enabled organizations to contribute the resources they already have available and, in return, helped to develop their capacity by equipping them with the skills and knowledge needed to conduct community-based research and disseminate results.

Finally, the involvement of four provincial Stakeholder Groups and the culminating Atlantic Seniors Housing Needs Conference facilitated the development of public policy solutions. The central role played by our participants and community partners in all aspects of this project have enhanced the understanding of aging Atlantic Canadians’ housing needs and preferences at all social and economic levels, and by both public and private organizations.

Currently, research results are being communicated to academic peers through the publication of journal articles and other professional forums, such as conferences, so that the discussion of the future of seniors housing in Atlantic Canada can be continued.

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