Jennie Hewitt joins Whiddon’s positive ageing team

Whiddon has welcomed award-winning academic and physiotherapist Dr Jennifer Hewitt to its research and positive ageing team.

New South Wales and Queensland regional and rural aged care and retirement living provider Whiddon has welcomed award-winning academic and physiotherapist Dr Jennifer Hewitt as its newest research and positive ageing team member.

Dr Hewitt is a practicing physiotherapist, clinical researcher and lecturer and clinical educator with The University of Sydney Northern Rivers Clinical School with a passion for delivering best practice health and wellbeing programs.

Dr Jennie Hewitt

At this year’s Asia Pacific Eldercare Innovation Awards, she received a Global Ageing Trailblazer Award. In 2018, Dr Hewitt won a national aged care lifetime achievement award from then provider peak body Aged and Community Services Australia.

Around the same time, Dr Hewitt led the ground-breaking SUNBEAM (Strength and Balance Exercise in Aged Care) trial, which, as published in 2018, involved 221 aged care residents from 16 facilities and resulted in a 55 per cent reduction in the rate of falls among participants.

In an interview with Australian Ageing Agenda last year, Dr Hewitt said the introduction of the Australian National Aged Care Classification had renewed attention in the SUNBREAM program.

“There has been a surge of interest in how to roll out the SUNBEAM program because allied health therapists are now allowed to perform evidence-based exercise, rather than just the previously prescribed very outdated interventions,” Dr Hewitt told AAA.

“AN-ACC provides an opportunity for allied health to branch out into individualised exercise programs that address the person’s goals, diagnoses and their multiple morbidities,” said Dr Hewitt.

In 2020 as an expert witness at the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, Dr Hewitt advocated for residents to have improved access to reablement programs. Later that year, the federal government announced funding to roll out an allied health group therapy program based on SUNBEAM, appointing Dr Hewitt technical advisor on its implementation in more than 100 aged care facilities nationally.

At Whiddon, Dr Hewitt along with the provider’s innovation and strategy team co-designed the evidence-based Exercise 4 Life pain-management program. Last year’s pilot of the program across three of Whiddon’s aged care homes recorded a 50 per cent reduction in pain symptoms for participating residents, with some experiencing no symptoms at all.

Whiddon chief executive officer Chris Mamarelis said he looked forward to seeing the continued impact Dr Hewitt would have at the organisation in her new role. 

Chris Mamarelis

“We are excited to have Jennie join our team at Whiddon, strengthening the incredible expertise of our Research and Positive Ageing Team, led by Karn Nelson,” Mr Mamarelis said.

“Jennie has already worked closely with us on our new Exercise 4 Life program, which is seeing incredible outcomes for our residents and clients in the areas of pain management and reablement. We look forward to seeing the continuing difference Jennie will make as part of our team.”

Main image: Dr Jennie Hewitt taking residents through the Exercise 4 Life program at Whiddon’s Easton Park site in Glenfield NSW late last year

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