Times Changing in Aged Care

An Aged Care Facility

The times are certainly a-changing when it comes to aged care accommodation. There were so many horror stories in the media in the past about aged care facilities that the industry has undergone a major shake-up. The government stepped in to close down some facilities and have improved the standards for accreditation for aged care accommodation to ensure our elderly are properly cared for.  I love to assist those looking for aged care accommodation as I seek and find the most suitable facilities for my clients.

These days there are more and more facilities being built and they are very different from those of the past, with hotel standard suites, cafes, private dining rooms and decent wifi to ensure residents can stay connected to their families. Facilities are also beginning to offer expanded life experiences to offset the risks of an institutionalised environment.

One new facility nestled in the foothills of the Gold Coast Hinterland, Carinity Cedarbrook, overlooks a farm with horses and cattle. Carinity’s thirty one hectare site is being used by nearby Southport Boy’s School for science and agricultural classes.The plan is that residents will interact with the students and animals and over time activities will increase to include beekeeping and community gardening. Other facilities offer inter-generational playgroups on a regular basis, usually fortnightly or monthly.

Parents bring their babes and young toddlers along to interact with the residents, taking part in musical, dance, art and story telling together.The children appreciate the interaction with the residents, especially those who don’t have regular access to their own grandparents.The residents in turn are often rejuvenated by the interaction with the very young and the music and activities often bring back fond memories. Staff report that, in particular, those living with dementia are often more engaged and energised by these experiences.

For older adults, programs reduce isolation and create a sense of purpose, including for those living with dementia. And for children the benefits include psychological and social development. Professor Anneke Fitzgerald of Griffith University is doing a feasibility study into demand for inter-generational playgroups in aged care facilities with a possible outcome that it will become government policy.



Young Students Living Amongst The Elderly


A documentary on SBS Dateline on 3rd May titled “My 93 year old Flatmate” reported on a unique social housing experiment at a retirement home in The Netherlands. In my role as an Aged Care Placement Specialist I visit many aged care facilities and although many of them are very well appointed with great services I have never heard of this idea before. Six Dutch students live rent-free in the Humanitas Deventer retirement home near Amsterdam. The arrangement is that the students spend about 30 hours a month helping at the home, mainly being a good neighbour, in return for fee board. One of the students Jurriën says “When I get home from school, I visit my neighbour for an hour or so. Elderly people are full of life. As a student, you can learn a lot.” Jurriën loves living at the home and is free to come and go as he pleases, but there are drawbacks. “People die.” he says. He finds this difficult, particularly when it’s a friend, but says he can handle it.

As in Australia, the cost of aged care in the Netherlands continues to rise. The cost of student housing has also risen, but even more concerning was that there simply was none available in the area. CEO of Humanitas Deventer, Gea Sijpkes, devised the concept with these considerations in mind.  She wanted the home to be warm and for residents to want to live there, but realised it would cost too much to have extra staff. “If you do that with students, then there is a social return on investment against loneliness. That’s the idea.” She has found that the students quickly form a special bond with residents.

Gea Sijpkes says she can’t see any reason why the concept couldn’t work in Australia too. She finds that the elderly benefit from the students living amongst them, opening up their world, bringing the outside into their home. “The elderly tell stories, they have a lot of interest in the young ones. They always want to know whether they have girlfriends and whether they are staying overnight,” she laughs. The focus has shifted from their illnesses or who has died, “Now they are talking about the music party that Jurriën goes to in Amsterdam!”   I wonder if this concept will be taken up in this country? I look forward to one day visiting homes where the young live amongst the elderly.

The Value of Intergenerational Activity in Aged Care Facilities

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St Kevin’s have been running programs with their students visiting aged care facilities for some years and recently I received these heart-warming photos of secondary students visiting with the residents of the Royal Freemasons Coppin Suites in Moubray, Melbourne. The residents enjoy the interaction with the students, as they often miss their own grandchildren whom they sometimes don’t see much for various reasons,such as they are living interstate or overseas. The students also gain a lot from these visits, as is illustrated by one student in particular who wrote back to the Lifestyle person at the facility, thanking her for allowing him to spend time with the residents. He particularly singled Donald Ross out in his letter, saying that Don had made the greatest impression on him. You may remember that I wrote about Don in another blog; he has limited hearing and speaking and was unfortunately the victim of financial elder abuse. As a result of a court case against the abuser he was able to sell his asset and received sufficient finances to move to this lovely facility, which I was able to assist him to find.

The student expressed that he now has a whole different perspective of living life to the fullest with a disability through Don sharing his story with him, something he said he could never have imagined before. For the students it’s not just about being helpful, it can be a powerful experience as it’s often the only interaction they might have had with an older person.

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The students gain a valuable insight into how people lived in another generation through the stories the residents share with them. It helps to break down barriers and gives these young adults an understanding of the challenges faced in earlier times, and the challenges elderly people face now.

The social benefits of mixing elderly aged care residents with the youngest generation was the focus of an experiment funded under an initiative of the Victorian Government Department of Health Aged Care Department. An intergenerational playgroup was conducted in a residential aged care facility at Percy Baxter Lodges, North Geelong in 2009. The benefits accruing to the elderly residents, parents and children attending was evaluated as positive for all three groups. The residents became more actively involved and confident in interacting with the children over time and the children came to see walking frames, walking sticks and wheelchairs as quite normal and enjoyed being doted upon by the residents. One of the parents noted that her daughter was happy to just have someone sit quietly with her as she played, listening and talking with her patiently; the mother had not realised the value of this herself, filling her child’s day with frantic activity.  So, a great learning experience all round. Playgroups Victoria provides information on running intergenerational playgroups.