In this story: 

  • Grandparents filling gaps in childcare
  • New insights into downsizing
  • ‘Sharing is caring for eHealth’
  • Facebookers 50+ sought for study
  • Memory training proves beneficial
  • Attitudes towards young in aged care

Grandparents filling gaps in childcare 

The issues of cost and a lack of flexibility in formal childcare services are two of the main factors behind grandparents providing childcare for their grandchildren, a submission from the Council on the Ageing will tell the Productivity Commission.

The commission is currently holding a public inquiry into childcare and early childhood learning, with a focus on how it supports workforce and study participation.

COTA is preparing a submission to the inquiry, based on the stories and first-hand accounts it has received from grandparents.

COTA's submission is based on grandparents' views.
COTA’s submission is based on grandparents’ views.

Jo Root, COTA’s national policy manager, said that cost and flexibility were key reasons behind grandparents providing childcare.

“Stories of grandparents taking on childcare so a parent could study were very common, particularly for single parents, and those who couldn’t afford childcare,” she told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“The other issue is the lack of flexible childcare. There was a difficulty accessing ad hoc childcare, where it was needed to fit in with shift work or study requirements. If a parent is working and studying, they might get childcare to cover their work time, but struggle to get childcare on weekends when they need to study. So grandparents stepped in to fill those gaps.”

Grandparents also often provided care when children were sick, Ms Root said. “When a child is sick they can’t go to childcare. Some parents can’t take time off work; they might have used all their parental leave or holiday leave. Grandparents felt the need to step in.”

The majority of feedback COTA received has been positive, Ms Root said. “Grandparents said it was a pleasure, they felt lucky to have the time to share with their grandchildren… Most said they felt appreciated.”

As Australian Ageing Agenda recently reported, an Australian Institute of Family Studies report in December found that almost the same proportion of children are being cared for by their grandparents as are in long day care centres.

For more on COTA’s submission visit the website. More on the Productivity Commission inquiry here

The AHURI's research into downsizing.
The AHURI’s research into downsizing.

New insights into downsizing 

Research from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute has shone light on the extent of downsizing among seniors in Australia, the processes involved and the motivations behind it.

Downsizing amongst older Australians involved a questionnaire of 2,819 older people who had moved since they turned 50 years of age, interviews with 60 survey respondents, and three policy forums, as well as a literature review and an analysis of census and housing data.

The research found that while downsizing was undertaken by around half of the older population who moved over a five-year period (43 per cent), this still represented only a small percentage of the total older population.

Those who did downsize moved from three and four-bedroom dwellings to two and three-bedroom dwellings, and many did so into retirement villages.

“Downsizers were motivated mostly by a desire for lifestyle change and an inability to maintain the house or garden, and financial factors were important for very few,” according to the report.

Downsizers relied primarily on family and friends for information and advice rather than professional, government or seniors organisations. The vast majority found the downsizing process easy, but for the few who did not the main difficulties faced were availability of suitable housing that was affordable and in a suitable location, it noted.

The researchers said that the policy forums identified the key barriers to downsizing as dwelling and locational availability, financial disincentives and the psychological and practical challenges of the moving process.

The report concluded: “The most effective policy strategies recommended for overcoming these barriers were improving information and support services to assist in the moving process, removing financial disincentives, and fostering innovation in the housing industry. If implemented, participants believed this could result an increase in downsizing on the part of older Australians, thus providing a better match with the housing needs of some older people while releasing their larger homes into the market. The reality is, however, that the majority are likely to continue to remain living in their larger suburban homes for as long as possible.”

‘Sharing is caring for eHealth’

Recent research on older people’s attitudes towards the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records (PCEHR) shows that the eHealth message is getting through, but more work is needed to help older Australians overcome a reluctance to share their electronic health information, according to Inner North West Melbourne Medicare Local CEO Christopher Carter.

As Australian Ageing Agenda reported last week, the study of older Australians in regional Australia showed that while 95 per cent would give their GP full access to their PCEHR, only 44 per cent would do the same for allied health professionals.

Mr Carter said the results show the importance of targeted education campaigns explaining the role of all health professionals in relation to the PCEHR.

“Giving each health professional that might come into contact with a patient full access to their PCEHR is critical to their care being coordinated and consistent at all stages,” he said.

“While it is encouraging that 85 per cent of participants supported the idea of electronic health records, the results around access show the need to build greater community awareness around the benefits of having these records available to all the people involved.”

The AuSON tool was developed for the study.
The AuSON tool was developed for the study.

Facebookers 50+ sought for study 

Facebook users aged 50 years and older are being sought for the next stage of ongoing research on social networks and successful ageing in Australia.

The Social Networks and Ageing Project is based at the Australian National University and is led by Associate Professor Heather Booth from the Australian Demographic & Social Research Institute.

The research aims to better understand the role of social networks, in particular online social networks, in contributing to successful ageing in Australia.

As a major part of the project, the researchers developed a Facebook application called AuSON (Australian Seniors’ Online Networks), which collects data on Facebook social networks, social capital and ageing status.

Those who wish to participate in the research can do so by installing AuSON, which automatically collects information on the structure of users’ Facebook networks. AuSON also enables participants to provide additional information about offline friends, how their social networks provide access to resources such as information and assistance, and measures of ageing status such as physical and mental wellbeing.

The researchers stressed that participation in the study was entirely anonymous: “Personal information will never be viewed by the research team, shared with third parties or published. This information is only collected for academic research purposes and will be kept secure and anonymous. All data will only be analysed at an aggregate level and your individual data will not be separately analysed or discussed.”

Further information about AuSON is available here

Memory training proves beneficial 

Older adults who received as few as 10 sessions of cognitive training showed improvements in reasoning ability and speed-of-processing as long as a decade after the intervention, new research shows.

The gains were even greater for those who had additional “booster” sessions over the next three years. Older adults who received brief cognitive training also reported that they had less difficulty in performing important everyday tasks, according to the findings published in Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

“Showing that training gains are maintained for up to 10 years is a stunning result because it suggests that a fairly modest intervention in practicing mental skills can have relatively long-term effects beyond what we might reasonably expect,” said lead author Dr George Rebok of Johns Hopkins University.

“Our findings provide support for the development of other interventions for senior adults, particularly those that target cognitive abilities showing the most rapid decline with age and that can affect their everyday functioning and independence. Such interventions have potential to delay the onset of difficulties in daily functioning,” said Dr Rebok.

The Summer Foundation survey.
The Summer Foundation survey.

Attitudes towards young in aged care

New research conducted for the Summer Foundation has found that 85 per cent of Australians believe there should be age-appropriate housing and support for people with disabilities. The survey also found that 90 per cent of Australians believe it is imperative that the issue is addressed by government.

An estimated 3,500 people under 60 currently live in residential aged care around the country because of the lack of alternative appropriate accommodation for them.

Dr Di Winkler, CEO of the Summer Foundation, said the study reiterated the organisation’s previous extensive research which showed that residential aged care was inappropriate. “The Summer Foundation is collaborating with others to build housing demonstration projects, where young people in nursing homes can begin to rebuild their lives and become part of the community again,” she said.

The study also found that those with a disability were perceived to be the second most disadvantaged group in Australia, behind the homeless.

Read Australian Ageing Agenda’s previous coverage on the issue: NDIS not the panacea for young in aged care and Young people should live in the community

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