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J Clin Nurs. 1999 Jan;8(1):103-11.

Identifying older people in need using action research.

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  • 1Ottawa-Carleton Health Department, ON, Canada.


An ageing population has implications for community-based health promotion and disease prevention. There is concern about older people who do not fit into existing programmes and services yet need minimal support to maintain independence. A study was designed to develop approaches to gain access to this hard to reach population, assess needs and design and test interventions to integrate them into the community. The study, informed by theories of health promotion and social support, used action research methods. Participant observation documented in field notes, together with case notes and clinical assessments, provided a rich source of qualitative and quantitative data. This article discusses the needs assessment. Over a 3-year period, public health nurses linked with community groups in a predominantly francophone, urban community to identify the target group. Key characteristics of the target group included limitations with instrumental activities of daily living and low levels of social support combined with stressful life situations that challenged adaptation. Three patterns of inadequate support were identified.

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