Behind The Scenes of The Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds

ABC-baby-goats

A recent interview by Aged Care Insite with Professor Susan Kurrle, director of the Cognitive Decline Partnership Centre at the University of Sydney, who worked on the recent ABC documentary The Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds, provides some interesting insights to the program. (Photo from Aged Care Insite)

This experiment is the first of its kind conducted in Australia and Professor Kurrle believes the implications of this successful trial could be huge. The ABC show follows the progress of a group of aged care residents taking part in structured activities with a group of pre-schoolers who visit their aged care home on a regular basis.

The resident-to-resident relationship building that has arisen as a result of the experiment has obvious benefits to health, Professor Kurrle said. It was a surprise side effect of the experiment and those relationships have continued in a healthy way. Some residents felt quite lonely and isolated prior to the trial.

Allowing young children day-to-day contact with their elders can also combat ageism she said. The children who took part also benefited growing in their confidence and interactions and developing of empathy. One particularly touching moment was when one young child, whose parents described him as a “soft soul”, showed empathy for a depressed resident who was not participating or speaking and had his eyes closed, by going up to him and being with him, drawing the resident out until he broke into a beaming smile.

This experiment was the first time that structured activities were used to encourage interactions between the children and adults as they worked together to achieve particular goals. Other intergenerational programs with pre schoolers have not been structured in this way, with the children simply playing side by side with the residents. Professor Kurrle pointed out that humans are pack animals and crave the companionship of family. For residents whose families are far away or unable to visit life can become lonely. This program allowed them the opportunity to interact with young children, as they would with their grand children. The health benefits were proven by standardised health tests before and after the program.

Professor Kurrle assured the interviewer that the children weren’t encouraged by producers on the show to behave in certain ways to develop the story. All behaviour on the show was spontaneous. The only people in the room were the participants, the instructor and some of her assistants to help with the children. The cameras and microphones were hidden.

Suggestions coming out of the success of the program about how to do more intergenerational programs in aged care facilities include encouraging playgroups to set up their activities within aged care facilities. Another was for aged care providers to consider building childcare facilities within their buildings when building a new facility or upgrading an existing one.

Trailer for the ABC program

 

A New Test To Tackle Falls in The Elderly

david-monje-lady with walking stick

Older people fear having a fall, more than a bag snatch or a home invasion, according to Professor Stephen Lord, a senior principal fellow at Neuroscience Research Australia at the launch of a new screening test for falls, a collaboration between NeuRA and the aged care company, the Mark Moran Group. He stated that the reason they fear this so much is it is often the precursor to losing their independence. Once an elderly person goes to the Emergency Department of a hospital as a result of a fall and into the hospital system, they are often assessed as being unable to continue caring for themselves, resulting in them moving to an aged care facility.

Research shows one in three people over 65 will have one or more falls every year. At that rate the number of new hospitals will have to increase at a rapid rate to cope with falls related injuries.

Professor Lord stated that the cost of falls to the economy is greater than any other injury, including car crashes.

If a fall is serious, 43 per cent of people aged 70 or older who have one will be admitted to hospital. Currently, falls account for 250,000 hospital bed days every year, and will rise to 450,000 by 2050. Of those who are hospitalised, about 10 per cent will move to an aged care facility for the first time.

The new screening test, launched this week, can predict with 75 per cent accuracy the risk of someone over 60 having a fall – and recommend ways to prevent one. The kit, FallScreen +, has nine assessments. These relate to general wellbeing, including pain and mental health; regular exercise; executive function (which includes ability to assess and negotiate hazards in an unfamiliar place), and eyesight, including ability to see light and shade (which helps to avoid trip hazards).

The kit will be trialled at aged care facilities owned by the Mark Moran Group, and will also be released as an app pitched at those who work in aged care, including physiotherapists, psychologists and others. A simplified test is being developed for general practitioners.

As an Aged Care Placement Consultant I highly recommend that elderly people have a future plan in place so that if they do have a fall or several falls and find themselves in a situation where they can no longer stay safely in their home, they have a plan B ready to go. If they have developed a plan, they are in a position of having more choice and being able to move to a facility that suits their needs, tastes and location. This can make a big difference to the outcome; it can be a positive move.

Some facts taken from Julie Power’s Sydney Morning Herald article published Aug 27 2019.