Older women could be helped to live at home for longer if small ‘handyman’ tasks were included in the suite of services offered under home care package program, a researcher says.

New research from Bolton Clarke, recently published in the journal Ageing and Society, investigated the factors preventing women from accessing the support that could help them remain independent.

The Melbourne-based study, the first of its kind, is part of the Older Women Living Alone project.

Marissa Dickins

More thirty per cent of Australian women live alone, yet their experience of growing older is poorly researched, says Bolton Clarke research fellow and Monash University adjunct lecturer Marissa Dickins.

“There are specific issues that face older women … that are less apparent for older men,” she told Community Care Review.

Her study surveyed 37 women aged 55 and over from across Melbourne between May and August in 2017.

It concludes that barriers and enablers to assessing service, as well as their intersections with gender and living situations, need to be considered in service design and re-design.

Financial challenges

Financial challenges resulting from lack of super and retirement savings, lack of information, and difficulties navigating a complex and largely digitised system were among the main barriers to emerge from the research.

We usually think about the big things, like cleaning and nutrition and gardening, but finding a way to plug the gaps for small services will be a way to assist women to have confidence they can stay at home for longer.

But it also found that the failure of the current home care system to provide simple tasks is also acting as a barrier to independence.

Dr Dickins said it was often the small things that led to respondents’ concerns about their ability to live at home, even if they were managing all the other aspects of living at home well.

“It’s definitely one of the gaps that we identified,” Dr Dickins said.

“A  lot of the women said ‘I just need someone to come over and change that light bulb that’s blown, I need someone to come in and help me bring down the drapes so I can clean them, I need someone to change the battery in the fire alarm when it goes flat’.

“We usually think about the big things, like cleaning and nutrition and gardening, but finding a way to plug the gaps for small services will be a way to assist women to have confidence they can stay at home for longer.

“One of the suggestions that came out of our co-design was to have a handyman type person who could come in do all these little jobs.”

Women in the survey also spoke about a lack of knowledge being a major barrier to accessing services, Dr Dickins said.

“There was a lot of feeling by older women that they didn’t know what they didn’t know, and they didn’t necessarily know where to go to figure out what they didn’t know,” she said.

Access the paper here.

This story first ran on Community Care Review.

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2 Comments

  1. Couldn’t agree more. There are lots of little things that need to be done around a house that a woman can no longer do by herself. I know as I am in my nineties and live alone. Someone to wash the windows / clean the fly screens/ sweep up the leaves after heavy winds/etc.

  2. There are a lot of small maintenance jobs we carry out for our elders and this does make a difference to remain living at home, we are a Commonwealth Home Support Program, Home Modification and Maintenance Service, and Home Care Package Providers do utilise our services often for both modification and maintenance.

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