Aged care sector attracts young blood

Masters scholarship student at Queensland’s Griffith University devotes studies and future to the aged care sector.

Attempts by the aged care sector to attract young blood to the industry have proven successful at Queensland’s Griffith University, where one determined Masters student has devoted her thesis and future to improving the nutrition of older people.

Katie Benton’s research, which focuses on nutrition and dietetics in aged care, was inspired by a desire to bridge the gap between the typical active senior and the frail older person. 
“Good nutrition and physical activity are important to maintain health in the elderly,” Ms Benton said.

“If we can adequately support people in their own home for longer, they have a better quality of life and we also reduce the burden on the health care system.”

Her research, funded by the Eberhard Wenzel Scholarship for International Public Health, investigates the importance of nutrition and the concept of independence to an older person’s overall health and sense of wellbeing.

Ms Benton visited a range of people aged over-65, living in their own home and a respite centre for older people.

So far she has found that good nutrition depends on factors such as affordability and access to high quality food, dietary knowledge and awareness, and the ability to prepare and consume healthy meals.

“Unfortunately some of our seniors who may be living at home by themselves, get into the habit of not preparing appropriate meals. Their nutritional intake becomes inadequate which impacts on their health and they become at risk of admission to hospitals and ultimately, nursing homes.”

Ms Benton said social interaction around a meal was also important to encourage good nutrition. It is essential that community care agencies become more aware of the many different factors that affect nutrition, and that they “link older people with relevant local services so they are not sitting at home, alone and depressed, eating a sandwich.”   

Passionate about the aged care sector, Ms Benton owes her concern for the welfare of older people to previous life experience.

She worked as a personal trainer for the active over-55 year old, and later visited a nursing home where her mother worked.  She said that after seeing and comparing the two differing aged groups, she began to question the impact that nutrition could have upon overall health.

“There is a growing need for people to work with the ageing population…I hope more people become interested in working with the aged as they are a great population to work with.”

Ms Benton’s research project, which winds up in June, will be followed by a job placement and graduation.  

Tags: aged, care, griffith, nutrition, university,

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