Academic journal article Australian Health Review

The Benefit and Burden of "Ageing-in-Place" in an Aged Care Community

Academic journal article Australian Health Review

The Benefit and Burden of "Ageing-in-Place" in an Aged Care Community

Article excerpt

Abstract

Ageing-in-place is usually viewed as a positive approach to meeting the needs of the older person, supporting them to live independently, or with some assistance, for as long as possible. It implies that older people prefer to live in their own home, rather than in an institution or care centre. However, there is little in the literature about the implications of ageing-in-place for the individual or their carers, or the burden this can place on service providers and aged care communities.

In an action research study that investigated the complexities and challenges of change in an aged care community in Western Australia, the implications of ageing-in-pace were apparent. The study revealed how residents expressed a desire to age-in-place and identified it as a critical element of quality of life and an important component of social connection. The findings also revealed the burden of ageing-in-place on carers, family and the organisation, and sufficient attention must also be paid to the wider impact on the individual, the family and carers.

Aust Health Rev 2008: 32(2): 356-365

THIS PAPER EVOLVED from the findings of doctoral study1 that investigated the complexities and challenges of change in an aged care community in Western Australia. The study explored the impact of change on the residents and the senior management team, and explored how change influenced the redevelopment process and future of the organisation. The study took place with a non-denominational, non-profit, aged care organisation in Western Australia, providing accommodation, services and community lifestyle for some 1100 residents, in low and high care centres and independent living units. This provider had recognised a need for change and elected to embark on a process of redevelopment over several years, to better equip it to meet the needs of current and future resident populations.

Residents and staff described the community as a small country town. Housing varied and included single and double-storeyed units, some like town houses and others more like apartment blocks. There were a number of other buildings, including an art gallery, medical centre, leisure centre, auditorium, grocery shop and chapel. Small streets meandered throughout the village and one larger road cut through the centre of the site. The trees were well established, as were the gardens, some of which were quite beautiful, and clearly the pride and joy of the owner. The care centres were at one end of the site comprising two multiple-storeyed and one single-storeyed building. The administration building was within the village, with the ground floor a large, well-equipped auditorium used for large public events and activities.

The majority of residents lived independently in a unit or apartment throughout the rest of the village and may have been engaged in activities and services available in the community. Residents lived in a combination of bed-sitter or one-bedroom units and blocks of one- and twobedroom apartments connected by gardens, paths, internal streets and recreational facilities. Village life might include activity in numerous clubs and social groups, informal gatherings in the coffee shops, film nights and dinner outings. Recreational and therapy facilities were available in both care centres as well as within the village.

There was ready access to public transport and easy access to adjacent roads. Movement throughout the village was safe, as traffic was restricted and roads and paths maintained for safe walking. Gardening and maintenance services were available, along with access to services brought on to the site, such as a pharmacy. Family and friends, and the general public, moved on and off the site at will.

Methods

Action research was selected as the method because of the need to provide in-depth, detailed understanding of the processes of change in an aged care organisation. A participative approach enabled the participants to be involved in a research process and outcomes that could have a long-term benefit. …

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