Seniors must have say in reforms, says outgoing AAG president

Aged care reforms need to be measured, iterative and involve older people, says Associate Professor Marguerite Bramble.

Further reforms of Australia’s aged care sector must involve older people themselves, says outgoing president of the Australian Association of Gerontology, Associate Professor Marguerite Bramble.

Speaking to Australian Ageing Agenda from the AAG conference in Adelaide, Associate Professor Bramble said: “Whatever government does in terms of reform needs to be measured and iterative. And it needs to have input from the older population to ensure that the reforms can meet the needs of future generations of older people … so that we can give them the best life that they can have.”  

An academic in Charles Sturt University’s School of Nursing, Paramedicine and Healthcare Sciences and a registered nurse, Associate Professor Bramble’s practice, education and research expertise is in ageing, older person care and dementia care.

After two years as AAG president, Associate Professor Bramble steps aside from the role on Friday to pass the baton to new president Dr Claudia Meyer.

“The reforms need to be more rights based, they need to encourage ageing well,” Associate Professor Bramble added. “And they need to have at their very core the understanding that older people are citizens and contributing citizens for as long as they can be.”

Associate Professor Bramble told AAA she was doubtful the reforms – which include 24/7 RNs and a new star-rating system – would overhaul the industry overnight. “I’m always hopeful but I’m not going to hold my breath in terms of finding a quick fix.”

The theme of the peak body’s 55th conference is The Future of Ageing Well. It’s a research area the AAG will continue to explore into the future, said Associate Professor Bramble.

“Ageing is a holistic experience. And ageing and longevity are areas of research which will continue to grow.”

When asked if she had any advice for her successor, Associate Professor Bramble simply said: “Be brave.”

Strengthening connections

Dr Meyer comes to the role of AAG president after six years on its board and with a background in physiotherapy. She is a senior research fellow at the Bolton Clarke Research Institute in Melbourne, where she combines her research skills with clinical physiotherapy experience for the benefit of older people and their carers.

She leads a program that implements research evidence into practice for older clients and residents, staff, and management, with the broad portfolio of falls prevention and dementia care across community and residential care.

Dr Meyer also holds an adjunct research fellow position in the Rehabilitation, Ageing and Independent Living Research Centre at Monash University, the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Flinders University, and the Centre for Health Communication and Participation at La Trobe University.

She told AAA, one of her first objectives will be to improve the organisation’s external communications to its 1,300 members across the country, which include aged care and allied health professionals, researchers, geriatricians and nurses.

“Part of our purpose is to connect research policy and practice, so a goal is to strengthen those connections for our membership.” 

Dr Meyer said she would also be committed to finding ongoing funding to pursue AAG’s strategic plan. “So that will be a big focus to make sure that we can diversify our funding so that we’re not quite so reliant on just a single stream of funding.” (The AAG is currently funded by the federal government.)

As for the aged care sector, Dr Meyer told AAA she was optimistic that real reforms can be made. But, she added, it’s a tough sector. “It is very difficult to balance the operational viability of aged care homes with bringing in best practice for older residents in our care. There is a lot of work to be done to make sure that we’re meeting the needs and preferences of the older residents, but there’s always a tension with the costs that exist.” 

The AAG and its members have an important role to play in those reforms, said Dr Meyer. “We are a peak body that represents many different disciplines. That is our strength, that we have people from many sectors within our membership. We’re a strong collective voice – that’s probably where we can have our best impact.” 

Main image: Associate Professor Marguerite Bramble and Dr Claudia Meyer

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Tags: australian association of gerontology, Australian Association of Gerontology conference, Claudia Meyers, featured, Marguerite-Bramble,

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