Successful HARI Seed Funding Research Projects

Five projects were funded in this year’s round of Hallmark Ageing Research Initiative (HARI) Seed Funding.

HARI Fabric

Over 30 high calibre applications were received, indicating a strong interest in interdisciplinary research in ageing. See below for the successful project abstracts:

1. Project title: The role of cultural institutions in facilitating an age-integrated society

Investigators: Lena Gan, Dr Heather Gaunt, Dr Andrew Jamieson, A/Prof Alan March, A/Prof Clare Newton, Prof Alan Pert, Prof Kate Darian-Smith, A/Prof Wes Imms & Prof Simon Biggs.

Abstract: How can the affordances (artifacts/physical and social environments) of cultural institutions be better harnessed to enrich the lives of older people? This project will bring together participants, practitioners and designers to identify how cultural institutions stimulate social inclusion, intergenerational community engagement and life-long learning, explicitly focusing on improving mental health and societal participation in older cohorts. Research emerging from tertiary teaching contexts demonstrates cultural institutions such as museums can offer stimulating, learner-centered and non-hierarchical environments for adult learners. Co-production of knowledge occurs through generative integration of pedagogical strategies (including object-based learning and personal-response approaches), the physical spaces of the museum, the artifacts that reside within, and the reflective and interpretative capacity of participants. The integration of cultural institutions into their wider physical contexts and ease of access by older cohorts will also be addressed. This project aims to qualitatively identify these affordances and design strategies suited to the needs and opportunities of ageing populations. We anticipate this will lead to an ARC Linkage application on the benefits of better engaging our ageing populations within the cultural, social and physical settings of cultural institutions through multiple partner test sites in both urban and rural locations. The project aspires to cement ongoing international collaboration with colleagues at the University of Manchester (Whitworth Art Gallery and Manchester Museum).

2. Project Title: Design for Building an Engaged, Inclusive and Resilient Residential Aged Care Workforce

Investigators: A/Prof Clare Newton, Prof Alan Pert, Prof Kurt Seeman, Dr Lucio Nacarella, Dr Ruth Williams and A/Prof Briony Dow

Abstract: Increasing demand for Residential Aged Care (RAC) places and ongoing structural changes can potentially influence workforce recruitment and retention, risking creating negative work environments, bullying, and violence. Solutions include training, regulatory, and organisational innovations (e.g., Tri‐focal Model of Care). The influence of workplace design on RAC workplace culture is under‐researched.

To examine the impact of RAC workplace design on workplace culture to inform design for building an engaged, inclusive and resilient RAC Workforce. The research will: identify RAC workplace design and culture elements; develop a RAC workplace design prototype; and develop an evaluation protocol. Estia Health, an RAC provider will provide the sites given its scale, diversity, and commitment to building an engaged, inclusive, and resilient RAC workforce. Qualitative, participatory, user experience, photo elicitation, spatial mapping/tracking, focus groups and design interaction techniques with RAC direct care staff and managers are proposed.

The increasing complexity, demands and projected scale of the aged care workforce, requires evidence‐informed design and workforce policy and practice. The research builds multidisciplinary working partnerships between Design researchers (Melbourne’s School of Design, Swinburne’s Centre for Design Innovation Living Lab on Future Self), Melbourne’s Health Systems and Workforce Unit and Centre for Workplace Leadership, and Aged Care industry partner ‐ Estia Health.

3. Project title: Attitudes to ageing in Australia

Investigators: Prof Peter Gahan, Dr Joshua Healy, Dr Raymond Harbridge, Dr Ruth Williams

Abstract: We will conduct an Australian population-level survey of attitudes to ageing, and one of the largest such surveys ever undertaken. Our study is a foundational project for the Leadership and Ageing cluster of the Hallmark Ageing Research Initiative (HARI). We will examine the prevalence of ageism in Australia, using three validated measures of age-based stereotypes:

1) the Fraboni Scale of Ageism; 2) the Succession, Identity and Consumption scale; and 3) the Stereotype Content Model. Most previous studies with these measures have used small, convenience samples, particularly undergraduate psychology students. We will expand the scope to a representative population sample; the first time this has been done for Australia.

Our survey will yield rich insights about the extent of ageism, its link to personal attributes, such as sex and education, and its role in driving negative attitudes toward older employed people. We have engaged a survey company, Wallis Market and Social Research, to collect the survey data. We have received human ethics approval from the Faculty of Business and Economics. We are applying to the HARI seed funding round to cover the costs of a research assistant, who will contribute to the data analysis and the write-up of survey findings.

4. Project title: Sexual health and healthy ageing over the life-course – what can general practitioners (GPs) do?

Investigators:Prof Jane Hocking, Prof Meredith Temple-Smith, Dr Sue Malta, Dr Adrian Bickerstaffe,

Abstract: Despite evidence that sexual activity enhances physical and mental health as we age, little research has explored how sexual health is managed in primary care. Some evidence shows

GPs think sexual health is not a ‘legitimate’ topic to discuss with older patients. Conversely, other evidence indicates that older patients wait for GPs to introduce the topic, suggesting older adults are not receiving the appropriate management. This situation is concerning given an 80% increase in sexually transmitted infection rates in the over-45s in the last five years and growing rates of sexual dysfunction with increasing age.

Our project will investigate barriers and facilitators perceived by GPs to discussing sexual health with older patients. It will assess the feasibility of a sexual-health-screening-tool for patients to facilitate sexual health discussion during consultations. Qualitative and quantitative methods will be used and our interdisciplinary team includes researchers from epidemiology, primary care, information technology and psychology with community partners including Andrology Australia, Royal Women’s Hospital and the National Ageing

Research Institute. Results will: (1) provide the first Australian evidence of how GPs manage sexual health over the life-course and (2) inform a Category-1-grant application to evaluate the implementation of the screening tool in general practice.

5. Project Title: Self-compassionate Ageing: a brief intervention to promote heart health, physical functioning and happiness in older adults

Investigators: A/Prof Christina Bryant, Dr Lydia Brown, Angela Clancey, Dr Chandan Karmakar, Dr Anne Unkenstein

Abstract: The identification of modifiable biomarkers of healthy ageing is an important objective to improve health and well-being in the community. Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is a novel, cost effective biomarker of nervous system functioning that predicts a range of important outcomes including heart health, working memory, happiness and mortality.

The first aim of this study is to consider associations between HRV and questionnaire measures of healthy ageing including well-being, attitudes to ageing and reported cognitive functioning. Given that studies among younger adults show HRV can be improved through self-compassion training, and drawing on our own finding linking self-compassion to a positive ageing-attitude and low rates of disability, the second aim of the study is to consider the efficacy of a three session self-compassionate ageing intervention among older adult outpatients of the North Eastern Rehabilitation Centre. Outcomes include heart health, memory, physical activity and wellbeing.

Under the guidance of CB, this project brings together a dynamic team of early career researchers with expertise in healthy ageing and self-compassion (CB, LB), cognitive functioning (AU), HRV study design and analysis (CK), and practical experience running healthy ageing workshops (LB, AC). The study has important implications for enhancing healthy ageing.

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Ruth Williams