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Lessons from overseas: community connection key to reablement

Improved hospitality services and the inclusion of residents, family and visitors in operations are among key learnings from a European study tour that aged care CEO Jennifer Stuart-Smith is adopting in her organisation.

In this new online series, aged care executives tell Australian Ageing Agenda about their overseas study tour experience and the learnings they have brought back to their organisation.

Ms Stuart-Smith, who is CEO of James Milson Village in Sydney, visited Switzerland on a SAGE study tour in September last year. Here she answers our questions about her experience.

AAA: What was your motivation for undertaking the study tour and what did you hope to achieve?

Stuart-Smith: The primary reason for undertaking the tour was to learn from the other participants on the tour and the places we visited. Learning and ideas abound from such a trip with a natural broadening of our lens, exploration of how others undertake care and services for their ageing people and an immediate audit of our service.

What were the aged care tour highlights for you and key achievements?

Three major highlights were the buildings, hospitality services and language chosen especially the use of the word “elders”. A simple word yet it always came with such great respect and automatic onward dignity to the ageing Swiss people.

A building visited on the tour

Exploring both modern and refurbished buildings provided many ideas for the refurbishment and possible expansion works we at James Milson Village are undertaking.

The mix and importance of private and public space in all places visited resonates in our planning currently being undertaken.

Hospitality services was the other standout, including the availability of cafes, restaurants and galleries. There was a natural community connectedness providing enablement and reablement for residents to live well within their environment.

We are certainly increasing our community connectedness and exploring the shared hospitality service options for our service.

From your experience, how does aged care in Switzerland compare to aged care in Australia?

While there are always similarities and differences even within Australia, visiting Switzerland provided an opportunity to visit and view homes that provide great buildings and great hospitality to all stakeholders.

An example of hospitality services from the tour

Food and the associated social experience was available and very much valued by residents, family and visitors (see picture right).

My view is that we in Australia certainly do very well with our care and services to our ageing people.

Our outcomes stack up as do our research and innovation across ageing and service deliverables, however, the Swiss people are far more relaxed about ageing and therefore their approach is more fluid. And they are maybe less risk averse.

What was one aspect of aged care you saw on the tour that inspired you?

There were many aspects of aged care in Switzerland that resonated with me however, the one that will remain with me is the open inclusion of stakeholders in care and services. This aspect of service is a marker of respect. Love was evident in each service visited and clearly an accepted and known outcome for staff.

What did you see that you intend to implement or adapt in your aged care service?

Improved hospitality services and more immediate inclusion of stakeholders in what we do. Why? Because hospitality and inclusion is a key to enablement, reablement, maintaining sense of self and community connectedness. Although I believe we already engage with residents, family and visitors, I believe that there are times when this engagement is a secondary rather than primary initiative.

The picture (right) is a painting displayed in a resident’s room. The resident was enabled to maintain his painting, share his works, many of which were displayed throughout the home.

What key learnings from the tour can you share with your counterparts in the sector?

We are pretty good at delivering care and services to our aged people within Australia, we certainly have well-developed systems and processes, our buildings and services are comparable, however maybe we need to relax a little and showcase what we do rather than defend it.

Do you have a study tour experience to share? Get in touch at

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2 Responses to Lessons from overseas: community connection key to reablement

  1. Philip Green July 22, 2018 at 10:41 pm #

    Great to read about your inspirations from overseas. We at The Age Of Change and MENZ DEN Collective are currently using many of those identified key learnings in our collectives and community programmes. Great to see that we are keeping up with some of the world trends like, “enablement, reablement, maintaining sense of self and community connectedness”

  2. Anonymous June 14, 2019 at 8:58 am #

    Now she made all staff stressful and keep cutting work hours!

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