Involving older people in aged care education


Tuesday 11 Apr 2017

A new research project at Charles Sturt University (CSU) aims to develop a resource to help older people share their experiences of ageing with those who are training to work in the aged care sector.

The project, funded by the NSW Government under the NSW Ageing Strategy as part of its Liveable Communities Grants Program, will see educators engage people in residential aged care in the teaching process, while supporting the older people in sharing their stories.

It's a concept that Associate Professor Maree Bernoth from the University's School of Nursing, Midwifery and Indigenous Health has been using in her teaching for years.

"Older people have first-hand knowledge about ageing and we've found when they come into the classroom and share their stories it has a powerful effect," Professor Bernoth said.

"The students come away with a greater empathy and understanding, and the older people feel a greater connection to the community."

The Older Persons Teaching and Empowering Aged Care Health Students (OPTEACH) project has received a $93 000 Liveable Communities Grant from NSW Family and Community Services. It's a joint project involving Associate Professor Bernoth and her CSU colleagues,  Dr Judith Anderson,  Ms Lyn Croxon and Dr Eileen Petrie.

Associate Professor Bernoth said, "As part of this project we'll talk with older people who've already been involved in teaching programs to find out more about their experience and how they think it can be improved."

Over the next year, the researchers will also work with people in four residential aged care facilities in the Nambucca Valley of NSW, Dubbo and Bathurst in the NSW Central West region and in Deniliquin in the Riverina.

"Older people in residential care can feel very isolated and getting them into the classroom to tell their stories is one way of showing their experience is valued by the community," Associate Professor Bernoth said.

"Our aim is to find out what sort of support is needed to help them to become engaged with education and development programs, not just at Charles Sturt University but at other institutions and in training programs for staff within the sector.

"Educators also need support to make this kind of experience possible and we want to develop a set of resources that all aged care educators can draw on to include older people in residential care in their teaching programs."

Associate Professor Bernoth has also co-edited a textbook Healthy Ageing and Aged Care, in which elderly Australians and New Zealanders tell their personal experiences of ageing. Read more on CSU News here.

The Liveable Communities Grants program offers $4 million in funding over four years for projects that improve the lives of older people living in NSW.


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Media contact: Fiona Halloran , (02) 6933 2207

Media Note:

Associate Professor Maree Bernoth is a lecturer and researcher in CSU's School of Nursing Midwifery and Indigenous Health in Wagga Wagga. Contact CSU Media for interviews.