There is increasing research and awareness of the need to find ways to make health care services accessible to older men.
Answering the question 'why do fewer older men make use of services that could keep them independent and out of nursing homes' revealed many hidden truths about how older men view 'independence' and what they need and expect from services.
Common Barriers To Use Of Services
The report highlights three common areas that tend to act as barriers to men making use of services:
- Cultural and social reasons (how men perceive 'help' and accept assistance, perceptions on what it means to age).
- Individual reasons (emotional and personal reasons not to attend)
- Service reasons (referral systems, male-friendliness and balance of male to female staff).
What Services Can Do
- An important starting point is to identify the needs of older men in the localcommunity, including personal backgrounds, histories and identities, as well as significant transitions in their lives (i.e. retirement, bereavement, etc).
- Good referral systems and better understanding of services by other professionals is vital. Self-referred men were generally more affluent and less socially isolated. Good publicity and awareness-raising activities can help in getting services better known to a wider range of people.
- Another important factor is the existence of positive management and staff policies and attitudes to engaging with older men. The presence of a male member of staff, perhaps as a first contact point for men who are joining, may help to ‘legitimise’ participation for some men. But most important is the attitude and approach of staff, whether male or female, and the warmth of atmosphere they create.
- Activities that are attractive to older men may help strengthen involvement. However, there is a danger in reinforcing stereotypically 'gendered' activities. Few men in the focus groups came specifically for educational activities, although activities aimed at improving men’s health can be a successful way of engaging older men. For many older men, straightforward social activities and outings are
the most popular activities.
- The image of the service is significant – the posters on the walls, the kind of reading material available, décor of the rooms, the availability of a male toilet, will all encourage or dissuade men's attendance.
- Although men-only groups are not attractive to all men, they have their place in a menu of options. For some men they provide vital encouragement, support and friendship in a safe environment. Having the space and autonomy to initiate their own activities is crucially important for some older men.
- Age Concern: Working With Older Men Report218 KB
Report by Sandy Ruxton for Age Concern UK