Ageing

5 minute read

three older people linking arms and walking down the street

The number of Australians aged 65 and over is growing. It’s estimated that by 2056, this group will represent 22 per cent of the population – compared with 15 per cent in 2016. At the same time, Australians aged 55 and over are the fastest growing segment of the workforce. The Ageing Hallmark Research Initiative was announced in 2015 to address the challenges and opportunities that come with an ageing population.

Outcomes

The Ageing Hallmark Research Initiative achieved much in its three years of operation (2016–2018). This initiative:

  • brought researchers from 14 schools, departments and faculties together with industry partners, peak bodies and academics from other universities
  • awarded competitive funding to 10 research projects working in creative ageing solutions
  • created an active, engaged community that continues to be involved in nurturing research, learning and teaching in the 'ageing' space. Associate Professor Clare Newton and Dr Ruth Williams remain involved with an active community of researchers on ageing at the University.

Funded projects

  • Attitudes to ageing in Australia. Lead researcher – Dr Joshua Healy
  • Sexual health and healthy ageing over the life-course – what can GPs do? Lead researcher – Professor Jane Hocking
  • The role of cultural institutions in facilitating an age-integrated society. Lead researcher – Dr Andrew Jamieson
  • Design for building engaged, inclusive & resilient residential aged care workforce. Lead researcher – Associate Professor Lucio Naccarella
  • Self-compassionate ageing: A brief intervention to promote heart-health and happiness in older adults. Lead researcher – Associate Professor Christina Bryant
  • Promoting healthy ageing in Vietnam veterans. Lead researcher – Associate Professor Meaghan O'Donnell
  • Reframing stroke rehabilitation spaces: The role of learning in recovery and its implications for design evaluation. Lead researcher – Associate Professor Clare Newton and Prof Julie Bernhardt
  • The role of masculinity in the suicidality of men aged 80 years or more. Lead researcher – Dr Kylie King
  • Active-VR for engaging older adults with dementia in residential aged care. Lead researcher – Dr Steven Baker
  • Intergenerational co-housing: Perceptions among older adults. Lead researcher – Dr Irja Haapala-Biggs

About

The Ageing Hallmark Research Initiative built on existing strengths at the University. It cultivated a new network of researchers in ageing—who could share ideas across a broad range of disciplines.

The creation of the initiative established a connected, cross-disciplinary ageing research community that persists today. This was complemented by the creation of a Masters in Ageing.

The initiative:

  • provided frameworks for University of Melbourne researchers in ageing to unite and pursue large-scale project and funding opportunities
  • supported research projects through seed funding
  • facilitated connection between researchers and industry partners
  • existed as a hub for information, resources, discussion forums and events

The initiative brought together researchers working in creative ageing solutions, in the areas of:

  • Technology and ageing
  • Design ageing
  • Ageing in low and middle income countries
  • Leadership for ageing
  • Healthy ageing
  • Social aspects of ageing
  • Demography of ageing

Other initiatives linked to ageing

Beyond those funded throughout the initiative, the University has many discipline based projects and initiatives linked to ageing:

Technology – Virtual reality, older adults and social participation – ARC Discovery project led by Professor Frank Vetere.
As people approach advanced old age their opportunities to engage in social activities often diminish due to increasing frailty. This project investigated how full-bodied gesture-based interactions and avatars can be used to create a sense of virtual presence between older people.

History and Philosophy – The Museum Multiple: Understanding older visitors – a McCoy project led by Dr Andrew Jamieson (2016 – 2018). This project explored museums as places of learning and stimulation. Over 100 visitors were interviewed or surveyed. The results highlighted the role of the museum as places for intergenerational experiences.

Design – Age-friendly inclusive design, residential aged care including design for dementia
This project explored agile housing, inclusive design, age-friendly communities and design for dementia. Agile housing and age-friendly cities – Associate Professor Clare Newton.
Inclusive design – Dr Andrew Martel.
Hospice design – Professor Alan Pert.
Affordable housing – Professor Carolyn Whitzman.
Design for dementia – Dr Hing-Wah Chau.

Workforce – Creating conditions for a thriving ageing workforce
Keeping wisdom at work – Dr B Brijnath.
Ageism in Australia and the workforce – Dr Josh Healy and Dr Ruth Williams.

Bioinformatics – Telehealth and mobile health
Health and Biomedical Informatics Centre (HaBIC) – Associate Professor Kathleen Gray. This project focused on reasons for and ways to describe, collect, store, analyse and visualise health data, health information and health knowledge – in order to contribute to planning, problem-solving, decision-making and inquiry.

Health – Multiple research projects including general medicine, stroke, cancer and psychiatry
Academic Unit for the Psychiatry of Old Age (AUPOA) – Professor Nicola Lautenschlager
@Ageing – Prof Andrea Maier.
Stroke and the AVERT Early Intervention Research Program – Professor Julie Bernhardt.
Older and Wiser – A co-designed, online, supportive care resource for older adults affected by cancer.

Generational – Population ageing research and multi-generational initiatives
University of Melbourne Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR) – Associate Professor Jeromy Temple. CEPAR is a collaboration between academia, government and industry.

Jack Brockhoff Child Health and Wellbeing Program – Professor Lisa Gibbs. This project included research on the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program which has revealed benefits for older volunteers.

Image: Philippe Leone/Unsplash