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Healthy Ageing Research Gets A Boost

More than $4 million has been awarded to 13 collaborative research projects spearheaded by the National Centre for Healthy Ageing (NCHA) through its Living Labs program.

The NCHA is a federally-funded partnership between Peninsula Health and Monash University, which aims to deliver national solutions for major challenges in healthy ageing through excellence in translational research. 

The major grant portfolio marks round 3 of the Living Labs program and brings together a multidisciplinary team to tackle two broad thematic focus areas of:

  1. Optimising Health: Empowering/supporting people to optimise their functional ability, including intrinsic and extrinsic factors that enable healthy ageing.
  2. Health and Social Care: Understanding, developing and improving health and care environments & systems to support healthier ageing.​​​​​​​

The funding supports projects such as:

  • a pets and people program to explore the potential of using human-animal bonds in aged care,
  • the effectiveness of a carers’ clinic to support older informal carers of older people,
  • co-developing educational content to increase bone and osteoporosis knowledge within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and,
  • the development of an enriched cohort study to investigate the health impacts of social connection, mental health and substance use disorders during high-risk periods of adult life.
  • Designing new ways to help older people manage their mental health in emergency care settings

Within each of these themes, the funded projects will address the importance of priority populations, complexity of health in ageing, the complexity of systems and care integration, and lived experience in their design.

NCHA Director, Professor Velandai Srikanth, congratulated the recipients, saying he was looking forward to closely following their progress and working with them to achieve significant impact for our community.

“These projects address challenges that our population faces in a variety of settings, the community, residential aged care and in hospitals. This is a fantastic step for the NCHA towards creating real and national impact in the field of healthy ageing. The diversity and disciplines of our network of researchers who have come together to create this body of work will ensure that the Living Labs program will flourish well into the future.”

Professor Alex Collie, Chair of the Living Labs Program said: “This investment by the NCHA in applied research will not only improve the health and wellbeing of older Australians. It will also grow the capacity and capability of our research community on the Mornington Peninsula to tackle critical issues in healthy ageing.”

The Round 3 funding announcement includes Peninsula Health research lead, Dr Rosamond Dwyer, who is investigating aspects of the mental health care of older people in an emergency setting, and how this may be improved. Dr Dwyer’s project also received funding in the first round of the Living Labs program in 2020. The success of this first pilot project has led to designing an intervention that may help.

Dr Dwyer’s Informed psychosocial care for older people in an Emergency Setting project will co-design, with older people and Frankston Hospital Emergency Department (ED) staff, a digital intervention within unplanned emergency care, to improve recognition of and response to psychological distress and common mental disorders (CMD) among older people in the ED.

The project will:

  • design and develop a digital intervention to address the objectives;
  • pilot test the intervention to improve usability and accessibility;
  • conduct a feasibility study of the intervention within Peninsula Health, to establish acceptability and indicators of the impact on outcomes for older people admitted to ED.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The objectives of the project are to improve:

  • Assessment of mental health and psychosocial risks for people aged 70 or over
  • Recognition of and response to mental health problems among older people admitted to the ED
  • Patient-clinician communication in the ED
  • Reciprocal communications about mental health and psychosocial risks between hospital emergency and primary care providers

What is the Living Labs program?

The NCHA’s Living Labs program is the engine room of our research.

Working with our partners, we conduct a wide range of research projects that look to improve the way our ageing communities can access and receive care. Developing, testing and implementing new models and systems (health and social) for some of the most complex problems relating to healthy ageing.

Our projects bring together end-users and health consumers with the best researchers and clinical leaders in the field, along with community organisations, peak bodies and industry partners to co-design and translate our research

The Living Labs projects funded in Round 3 are:

Professor Keith Hill
Changing the focus: Facilitating engagement in physical activity for people with dementia in a local community – A feasibility study

Dr Rosamond Dwyer
Informed psychosocial care for older people in an Emergency Hospital Setting

Dr Jacqueline Allen
Improving support for culturally and linguistically diverse carers during transition of older adults from hospital to community

Dr Em Bould
Pilot of a companion-assisted activity program in residential aged care to support intergenerational and intercultural social connections for healthy ageing.

Professor Philip Mendes
Building a best practice model to advance healthy ageing for care leavers (ex-residents of institutional out-of-home care) entering the aged care system.

Dr Ayse Zengin
Increasing bone health awareness to prevent fracture & falls in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

Dr Aislinn Lalor
New co-designed service to support health and wellbeing of older carers of older people

Professor Suzanne Nielsen
Supporting vulnerable populations to maintain healthy ageing: Development of an enriched cohort study

Dr Liz Sturgiss
Deep End Living Lab: better support for healthy ageing in homeless populations

Dr Darshini Ayton
Residential Aged Care – Enhanced Dementia Diagnosis

Associate Professor Helen Rawson / Professor Philip Russo
Implementing consumer and workforce empowerment and engagement strategies to enhance safety and quality by building capacity to prevent and manage infections in residential aged care homes

Associate Professor Libby Callaway
Environment and behaviour mapping in Residential Aged Care: Evidence to inform built, technology and workforce design

Dr Tina Lam
Integrating alcohol culture change into older adults’ positive ageing

About the National Centre for Healthy Ageing​​​​​​

The National Centre for Healthy Ageing is a federally funded partnership between Monash University and Peninsula Health. The goal of the NCHA is to deliver national solutions for major challenges in healthy ageing through excellence in translational research. 

Working with key partners across Monash University, Peninsula Health and other organisations, the NCHA conducts a wide range of research projects that look to improve the way Australians can age well and thrive in their communities, access care and support when required, and test innovative systems and models of health and social care for some of the most complex problems that impact on healthy ageing.

The key NCHA research programs fall under the Living Labs program.  Running since 2020, it incorporates four projects in Round 1, three projects in Round 2 and 13 projects in Round 3.

This open innovation approach ensures nationally scalable solutions which can be efficiently integrated into existing systems and practices, maximising impact for the people we are trying to help.