Health experts discuss how to make aging services more accessible for rural Kansans

Published: Nov. 2, 2023 at 6:21 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A discussion on helping senior Kansans in rural areas age at home comfortably brought together healthcare experts and policymakers Thursday morning.

They convened for a panel discussion at the Kansas Health Institute.

“There’s challenges that come with that,” says Kari Bruffett, president and CEO of the KHI. “But they’re all also great opportunities to build on and leverage the assets in our rural communities.”

Dwindling workforces are one major obstacle to providing aging services in rural areas.

“We don’t have as many younger folks in our communities to be able to support some of the social services needs as well as the health care needs.” says Bruffett.

Transportation proves to be another barrier to care.

“Transportation resources and rural areas tend to be more limited than in more populated more urban or suburban areas,” Bruffett explains. “Lacking transportation also creates a barrier for them to being being able to stay in their communities and their homes.”

Despite the challenges, Bruffett says the obstacles to providing rural healthcare can create unique opportunities as well.

“That opportunity for health care sector to collaborate with folks who provide social services or in home supports that aren’t strictly medical supports and services, as well as other community assets,” she says. “Community based organizations, churches, clubs, organizations that that are natural supports for older adults, how can they collaborate and leverage each other’s assets so that they’re meeting the needs of individuals in the home.”

She says panel discussions like these can encourage experts, providers and policymakers to collaborate and find creative solutions.

“Hearing different approaches and panelists bringing their examples from their communities hopefully will create opportunities for our participants both in the room and many folks who joined us virtually today from across Kansas, to think about how could this work in their communities,” says Bruffett. “Or maybe they’re even going to identify a partner in the room today that could be somebody or organization or similar partner that they could be working with in their communities.”