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Australian-first aged care trial of live-in students


L to R: (back) USC’s Sam Edwards and Dr Apil Gurung with nursing students Chin Hsiao, Louise Johannesson, (front) Chui Ying Lai and Komal Preet Kaur.

A Queensland study is investigating the impact university students living in aged care facilities has on the social isolation and quality of life of residents.

The intergenerational living study, which is being conducted by the University of the Sunshine Coast, involves six nursing students moving into recently-renovated rooms at Cooinda Aged Care to interact socially with approximately 20 residents.

The study was inspired by the Humanitas Deventer model in the Netherlands, which provides rooms in the facility for students to live rent-free in exchange for spending time with the residents.

Lead researcher Dr Apil Gurung said the study aimed to investigate the mutual benefits this approach has for students and residents.

“The main issue with residents in aged care facilities is social isolation, which is quite prevalent because many residents are not really mobile and it’s a very rare that they can go out of the facility and venture out into the community,” Dr Gurung told Australian Ageing Agenda.

Social isolation has been linked to dementia, depression, increased hospital transfers and prolonged hospital stays for residents, said Dr Gurung.

“We are trying to curb this social isolation by increasing resident’s interactions by having students live on-site and engage with the residents,” he said.

Dr Apil Gurung

Students will live in the facility for six months, pay $100 a week for their accommodation, food, access to a laundry room, television and Wi-Fi. They will also be able to walk to their classes at USC’s Gympie campus.

In return, the students will be required to interact with residents for approximately an hour a day and get to know them on a personal level during meals, tea and group activities, such as bingo.

Students will not be involved in any care duties, Dr Gurung said.

The study also aims to develop the students’ communication and interpersonal skills to prepare them to work with older people and combat ageism.

“There is unfortunately a lot of ageism especially in our community and in our healthcare sector because ageism is served by negative stereotypes, like old people are boring, uninteresting and slow… but they don’t have the opportunity to interact with older people,” Dr Gurung said.

“It gives the students this interpersonal skill to communicate with the residents and patients as well which can be carried onto another sector when they are going out in nursing placements.”

Dr Gurung said the program may even encourage students to pursue a career in aged care nursing.

The students, residents, families of residents and care staff at the facility will participate in pre- and post-study interviews to explore the overall impact of the intergenerational living model.

The study will commence in July.

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5 Responses to Australian-first aged care trial of live-in students

  1. Caroline May 24, 2019 at 1:08 pm #

    Interesting… given that none of the students will be involved in care or nursing duties, other than social interactions, I’m curious about the choice of nursing students relative to students from other faculties with an interest in ageing. Aged care environments will benefit from a diversity of tertiary students (counselling, social work, social sciences, IT, design, etc) in aged care environments so that they can experience what it means to get older and live in certain environments. The idea is right but the sector needs a broad workforce to look at social isolation and qualify of life from different perspectives.

  2. Karyn Dijkstra May 24, 2019 at 1:11 pm #

    I saw a TV program on this approach in the Netherlands and was hoping it could be instituted in Australia. The Dutch experiment showed real benefits to the young people and the residents. It will be great to hear the outcome of this trial.

  3. Gemma May 26, 2019 at 5:59 pm #

    I love this idea! It’s about time Australia starts taking some forward “outside” of the box ideas from forward thinking countries. I saw the documentry on this and thought it was a great way to bridge the age gap.
    Starting this with nursing students is great. They have the compassion (I hope) to start in this industry. Listening and making good rapport is all about nursing. I hope this will take off for all ages care facilities.

  4. Beris Campbell May 26, 2019 at 6:30 pm #

    HANZA (Homeshare Australia & New Zealand Alliance) is really pleased to see a trial of intergenerational shared living happen in resi care in Australia! We have studied the Humanitas Deventer project with great interest and have hoped that something similar could happen here. We have also talked with similar projects in other countries at the recent World Homeshare Congress in Belgium which are all demonstrating the value of this model. One of our Melbourne Homeshare programs is trialling a ‘homeshare’ match of a young homesharer living with a group of nine elderly nuns! Working so well! We look forward to hearing about the outcomes of this USC trial.

  5. Sharon Gibbens June 15, 2019 at 10:07 pm #

    Wow such an innovative idea. I imagine this will benefit so many but especially the residents and their new friends at the facility in these students

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