The $34 million centre tasked with turning aged care research into practice will open its doors in the first quarter of next year with a focus on dementia, restorative care, mental health and social isolation.

Minister for Aged Care Services and Senior Australians Richard Colbeck launched the Aged Care Centre for Growth and Translational Research on Wednesday.

The three year initiative aims to ensure vital research leads to tangible outcomes for the aged care sector and is one of the 14 strategic actions in the 2018 workforce strategy taskforce report A Matter of Care.

Flinders University and national consultancy firm Wells Advisory won the tender to develop an operational model for the $34 million centre in 2020.

The research centre opens its doors in March at Flinders University in Adelaide, said Sue Gordon, Professor of Healthy Ageing.

“The centre is aimed at increasing the capability of the aged care workforce to take evidence, research findings, and implement them into practice,” Professor Gordon told Australian Ageing Agenda.

Professor Sue Gordon

“It involves training, but it also involves co-designing projects that contextualise the workplace for a particular circumstance of an organisation to be able to actually embed that evidence into everyday practice,” said Professor Gordon, who will lead the centre’s research activities. 

Professor Gordon said an aged care sector survey identified dementia, restorative care and rehabilitation, social isolation and mental health and wellbeing as the centre’s four key priorities for the first 12 months.

“The centre will go back and do an annual survey and so those priority areas will be revised every 12 months,” Professor Gordon said.

While there is currently a lot of evidence on best practice, the problem is translating it into everyday work and making it easily accessible, she said.

“One of the things this centre will do is have a knowledge and implementation hub where we’ll be pulling together the research findings and providing them in bite-sized pieces in a language that is easily understood, and with ways to make that research and evidence fit-for-purpose within aged care provider settings,” Professor Gordon said.

The centre is recruiting 30 full-time roles and will fund around 60 translational research grants to improve aged care.

Professor Gordon said she hopes the centre improves workforce capability in aged care.

Stephen Blakeney assists Richard Colbeck with the Flinders-developed ‘exo flex’ hand therapy device

Mr Colbeck said the centre was an important investment in improving the quality of aged care services.

“This is a big step forward when it comes to ensuring the needs of older Australians in care are not just met, but exceeded,” Mr Colbeck said.

He said the government is supporting the aged care sector to make improvements across workforce capability, care quality and effectiveness.

“To do that, it’s important for the government to back innovation and accelerate the uptake of new technologies and research to benefit our ageing population,” he said.

Stakeholders welcome centre

Louise O’Neill

Aged Care Workforce Industry Council CEO Louise O’Neill said the centre had a key role in driving improvement in aged care service delivery and workforce capability.

“It is great to see that Flinders University will host the translational research centre and we look forward to working with them to support the development of evidence based practical tools and resources translated from targeted aged care research,” Ms O’Neill said.

Council on the Ageing chief executive Ian Yates called the centre an exciting development.

“COTA Australia is looking forward to working closely with the new research centre to help facilitate engagement with the centre by both consumer and provider organisations, and potentially facilitate partnerships in projects and research,” Mr Yates said.

Main image: From left: Professor Alison Kitson, Professor Gillian Harvey, Professor Sue Gordon, Richard Colbeck, Carmela Sergi, Professor Jennifer Tieman, Olivia White at the centre’s launch

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