A major Victorian provider has posistioned itself as an advocate for older Australians with the release of a research paper on respect in an ageing society.

Benetas commissioned Deakin University to conduct the report which explores attitudes towards older people among a broad range of stakeholders. It is the first piece of Australian research to address the topic of respect and ageing.

The study drew on the opinions of 113 participants, with groups from generation Y, generation X, baby boomers and older people living in retirement villages and residential care.

Benetas CEO, Sandra Hills acknowledged that the sample size was small but said it was a significant step for the organisation.

“Maybe for too long, [aged care] providers have seen themselves as providers of services and put themselves in a narrow domain,” she said.

“Traditionally, if we don’t get funding from government to do something then we won’t do it but now with an ageing population, we are looking at some of the larger societal issues that are affected by that.

“We are looking at the bigger picture issues as well as just caring for people in our services and we actually see this as being core business for us because we will be able to build some of the findings back into our model of care.”
 
The research paper identified a strong link between respect and wellbeing among older people but it also detected persistent ageist attitudes throughout Australian society.

Many younger people view their elders as fragile and unproductive people who lack ambition and are burdens on society.

Generation Y participants said time pressures made it hard for them to spend time with older friends and relatives and they found it difficult to relate to them.

“Some of the younger people talked about the lack of role models for relating to older people and they said they needed assistance in that area,” said Ms Hills.

“There need to be opportunities at a local level through community groups to facilitate these interactions.”

Ms Hills has developed a policy paper for government and other provider organisations with recommendations for promoting positive ageing, social inclusion and consumer choice.

It suggests that aged care providers should enable consumer directed care and provide staff training in interpersonal relationships and human rights.

Benetas and Deakin University are applying for an Australian Research Council (ARC) grant to conduct a larger study on respect in an ageing society.

The Victorian provider’s focus on research and advocacy is part of a strategic direction adopted last November, which also saw the appointment of a new research manager in February.

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