25 January 2024

CSU aged-care research group awarded $600,000 to boost mental health

| Jarryd Rowley
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elderly woman's hand being held by a younger woman

CSU’s Older Australians Navigating the Transition to Residential Aged Care research project has been granted $600,000 by the Ian Potter Foundation to explore ways to improve the mental health of seniors in care. Photo: Charles Sturt University.

A project led by Charles Sturt University’s Ageing Well in Rural and Regional Australia Research Group has been awarded a $600,000 Ian Potter Foundation grant.

The innovative Older Australians Navigating the Transition to Residential Aged Care (ON-TRAC) seeks to improve senior citizens’ mental health as they shift to care.

The research group is led by CSU’s Associate Professor Melissa Nott of the Three Rivers Department of Rural Health, Professor Suzanne McLaren from the School of Psychology, Associate Professor Belinda Cash from the School of Social Work and Arts, and Post-Doctoral Research Fellow for the Sturt Scheme-funded research group Dr Shanna Fealy.

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Dr Fealy said the project stood out as it established direct partnerships with stakeholders in the aged-care industry.

“We’re working with Uniting AgeWell in Victoria and Tasmania, and St Agnes Care and Lifestyle in Port Macquarie, as well as researchers from the National Ageing Research Institute and Federation University so that the project is evaluated and implemented effectively,” she said.

“The grant not only recognises the importance of our work but also presents an invaluable opportunity to showcase Charles Sturt University’s commitment to advancing the mental health of older Australians who are making the significant transition from living at home to residing in permanent residential aged care.”

Dr Fealy said the key areas of mental health to be addressed were depression and anxiety, the reduction of which involved evidence-informed psychological intervention.

“The aged care sector is confronted with immense challenges, necessitating a comprehensive transformation of its framework which was outlined in the recent findings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety,” she said.

“With the incidence of depression in older adults in residential aged-care facilities alarmingly high at 52 per cent, compared to community-dwelling older adults at 10-15 per cent, and anxiety disorders often co-occurring, improving the mental health of older Australians during this critical transition phase may have a long-lasting positive impact well beyond the project’s five-year duration.”

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The grant comprises $120,000 each year over five years. The total funding pool for the project, which includes leveraged funds from the Ageing Well in Rural and Regional Australia Research Group, Charles Sturt’s central research funds and in-kind contributions from Charles Sturt and partners, equates to $1,674,333.

Ian Potter Foundation chairman Charles Goode AC said his institution was pleased to support the research project.

“The project is led by an early career researcher, embedded within the newly established multi-disciplinary Ageing Well Research Group at Charles Sturt University, which aims to protect the mental wellbeing of ageing Australians as they transition into residential aged care,” Mr Goode said.

“The high rates of depression in this group make this a pressing need. Focused on prevention, the research project is based on strong collaborations with consumers, industry partners and research institutions.”

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