$34m centre to transform age care nationally

Flinders University will lead a once-in-a-generation aged care initiative bringing together the aged care industry, older people themselves and the nation’s best and brightest experts to transform the way Australia supports its ageing society.

The $34 million-dollar, three-year initiative will develop innovative new products and services and is supported by the Australian Government, bolstered by significant in-kind contributions from supporting partners.

Flinders University and consultancy firm Wells Advisory will jointly establish the Aged Care Centre for Growth and Translational Research, which Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling says will help develop the capability of Australia’s aged care workforce and translate research and innovation into best practice.

‘Dementia, restorative care and rehabilitation, mental wellbeing, and social isolation have all been identified as priority areas for the Centre in its first year’ Professor Stirling says.

‘Capitalising on Flinders University’s strong national aged care sector partnerships and research strengths, the Centre is supported by 73 collaborative partners including consumer advocacy and representative groups, aged care service providers, research organisations, translation and commercial partners, social enterprise organisations, peak bodies, workforce development organisations and the South Australian Government.

‘It’s carefully considered, it’s comprehensive, and crucially, it will ensure the voices and needs of older people and their families are central, and are heard,’ Professor Stirling says.

Speaking at the announcement, Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services Senator Richard Colbeck said “we know we are at a particular point in time with aged care where we are about to see once in a generation – perhaps even more significant than that – change in the aged care sector.”

“The Royal Commission…provides us with the imprimatur for significant change in the way that aged care is delivered, and innovation in that process is going to be extremely important, and the research that supports that is absolutely vital.”

With Professor Stirling, Senator Colbeck tries a Flinders-developed device which assists older Australians to retain fine motor skills.

In addition to employing 30 staff and delivering 600 internships for aged care workers the Centre will fund around 60 translational research grants to improve aged care.

The establishment of the Centre is in response to Australia’s Aged Care Workforce Strategy and supported by the Australian Government’s response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

The Centre represents a “once in a generation opportunity” to transform the way Australia supports its ageing society, says Professor Sue Gordon, Professor of Healthy Ageing.

“Societies are judged on how they look after the least capable members in their community, and we thank the federal government for acknowledging the strategic importance of a capable workforce providing evidenced care and look forward to applying our wealth of expertise to enable transformational reforms through translation of research to practice which achieves sector wide improvements,” says Professor Gordon.

“The Centre will develop and deliver translational research projects reflecting the sector’s priorities and we’ll review them annually. The most important outcome will be to drive growth in the provision of aged care that is aligned with innovation and based on increased workforce capacity and capability, enabling change that is safe, delivers high quality outcomes, and increases the opportunity for all Australians to enjoy healthy, well-supported ageing.”

In delivering the Centre, Flinders University will draw on expertise from the supporting partner consortium as well as the Flinders Caring Futures Institute, the Research Centre for Palliative Care, Death and Dying and the Medical Device Partnering Program.

The funding will support Professor Jennifer Tieman to lead development of a knowledge and implementation hub, Professor Karen Reynolds and Professor Gill Harvey will lead delivery of an aged care partnering and grant program, and Professor Sue Gordon will lead all research activities of the Centre and deliver workforce capability and capacity.

Opportunities for industry and community to engage with the Centre will include hands-on research project involvement, the sharing of skills and knowledge, and significant developments in workforce education and training.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Robert Saint says Flinders University has demonstrated its research strengths in the aged care sector for many years, and the Aged Care Centre will further position the University as a national centre for aged care research and development.

“By taking on this considerable and privileged task, we will harness our own research expertise and engage researchers from across Australia to effectively address national aged care challenges with real and meaningful change – because we can’t afford to leave behind the Australians who got us to where we are today.”

“The Centre will enable aged care staff and our researchers, to carry out research projects in collaboration with our industry partners, directly facilitating improvements in the sector as a result. We’ll apply the research through education and training programs to introduce innovations and improve caring practices, to the benefit of the aged members in our community.”

Translation and commercialisation activities of the Centre will be developed through partnership with Wells Advisory, a management consulting firm with significant experience guiding commercial strategy development across the higher education and research sectors.

“We’ll be looking for ways the market can help drive important innovations in aged care delivery that translate and apply research in a commercial context,” explains Michael Wells, Managing Director of Wells Advisory Australia, and UK.

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Caring Futures Institute College of Medicine and Public Health College of Nursing and Health Sciences Feature Flinders Health and Medical Research Institute Medical Device Research Institute Research Research Centre for Palliative Care, Death & Dying