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Bridging the distance and investing in intergenerational practice research

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Lead investigators from Griffith University Intergenerational Practice Project received the first of two proposed instalments of the Cromwell Property Group Foundation donation towards the 2-year Intergenerational practice partnership project.

Professor Anneke Fitzgerald of Department of Business, Strategy and Innovation, Dr Gaery Barbery of School of Medicine, Health Services Management and Gabriela Di Perna Business, Strategy and Innovation as well as Executive Director Jo Penman from MercyCare were present when Paul Weightman, CEO, Cromwell Property Group and President of the Cromwell Property Group Foundation presented a cheque for $75,000 to the project team on Thursday, 6 August 2020 in Brisbane.

Griffith University has partnered with not-for-profit aged care provider, MercyCare of Western Australia, to explore how we can foster meaningful engagement and bonds between the young and old.

Co-funded by the Cromwell Property Group Foundation, this 2-year research study aims to establish an evidence base for the impacts of a new model of intergenerational learning in today’s COVID-19, socially-distanced environment, using digital technology to strive for mutually beneficial engagement for all stakeholders involved.

COVID-19 has put unprecedented stresses on the aged care system to cope with social distancing, increasing family demands for quality care at a distance, and increased the complexity of delivering health care to residents in aged care homes.

Planned gathering activities within residential aged care homes designed to improve social, physical and psychological wellbeing of residents have also ceased, resulting in a significant decrease in social and behavioural interactions amongst residents, which may impact their overall mental health and wellbeing outcomes.

With the funding provided by Cromwell Property Group Foundation, the Griffith team aims to generate the evidence to inform the advancement of operational guidelines for the development and implementation of a mutually beneficial intergenerational learning program in Australia.

The research will examine the use of virtual intergenerational programs in providing purposeful interactions between older adults and children via web-based communication methods to suit the current socially-distanced environment.

Professor Anneke Fitzgerald says: “We believe that creating intergenerational programs will provide purpose, improve the overall experience of ageing and create age friendly communities, resulting in a range of benefits for children and parents, the elderly and their carers, as well as, the workforce and society as a whole.”

The intergenerational project team at Griffith University, have been investigating the benefits of bringing societies’ oldest and youngest members together as part of their Intergenerational Care Project.

The project is tailored to suit the current socially-distanced environment and focuses on a virtual intergenerational model and the establishment of an Intergenerational practice advisory committee to co-create an intergenerational practice hub in the future.

This next phase will focus on intergenerational practice, building on previous research in the Eastern States and will be pioneering the implementation of intergenerational practice in Western Australia. The work with MercyCare will continue to establish an evidence base for the impacts of different models of intergenerational programs.

This new virtual model will be trialled as a socially-distanced learning pilot, using teams and video conferencing equipment, to connect the intergenerational participants ensuring that linkages across the generations can be maintained in the current environment and beyond.

Gabriela Di Perna, Research Fellow at Griffith University and project manager of the study, says: “In particular, during COVID-19, it is important to maintain vital connections between the generations and not further alienate each other.“

Work has already started with surveying Mercy Village residents in relation to their wellbeing, loneliness, and depression, including questions relating to COVID 19, as well as their mood and appetite for participating in an intergenerational program going forward. Melville Cares and other community organisations are also getting involved in the Wellness -survey questionnaires.

According to Di Perna “This wellness questionnaire will become the baseline for the pilot, which will begin in the first term of 2021 between school students and older people.”

At the Core of this collaborative intergenerational practice project, he said, is the sharing of their findings, to inform others about their learnings. They work very closely with their funding partner Cromwell Property Group Foundation and community organisations such as MercyCare.

Griffith University’s Intergenerational Practice Research Team consists of Professor Anneke Fitzgerald, Business, Strategy and Innovation, Dr Gaery Barbery, Health Services Management, Gabriela Di Perna, Business Strategy and Innovation Dr Katrina Radford, Business Strategy and Innovation, Associate Professor Neil Harris, Public Health, and Dr Jennifer Cartmel, Human Services and Social Work.

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