Identifying the Health and Wellbeing Needs of Older People Living in the Eastern Region of Melbourne

With rising life expectancy across the globe we are experiencing growing numbers of older people living in the community. This change is mirrored in the Eastern Metropolitan Region (EMR) with population projections showing an increase in people aged over 60 years. As a community it is important that we are prepared for this significant change in our demographic and consider how we can best support the health and wellbeing of older people in the EMR, together with older people, within a healthy ageing approach.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines healthy ageing as ‘the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables wellbeing in older age’ (World Health Organization, 2015, p. 28). This definition is rooted in a social determinants approach, recognising the diversity within the population of older people where any individual, depending on their course through life, will exhibit a range of physical and mental capacities that impact on their ability to function. A person’s ability to live the life they value is determined by both their intrinsic capability—the personal, health and genetic characteristics within them—and the environment in which they live.

What did we do?

Qualitative and quantitative data was gathered through consultations, openly available data bases, and data collected and provided by partner agencies. The scope of the data was defined as:

  • Geographic coverage: Boroondara, Knox, Manningham, Maroondah, Monash, Whitehorse and Yarra Ranges local government areas.
  • People aged over 60 years, ideally in 10 year age ranges (60-69, 70-79 and 80+).

A grey (unpublished) literature review identified, collected and synthesised existing reports that were analysed thematically in line with the health and wellbeing indicators chosen for this research.

Data was also extracted from data bases, including the Australian Bureau of Statistics Census, Community Indicators Victoria, Victorian Population Health Survey, and Victorian Admitted Episodes data.

Health and wellbeing data indicators were developed in partnership with a Steering Group and grouped to align with the World Health Organisation Healthy Ageing Framework.

A consultation workshop was held towards the end of the research phase with organisational representatives identifying key themes from the data.

The resources developed (final report, executive summary, snapshots and data profile) were promoted and distributed through a “roadshow” with managers and key staff at partner organisations, particularly local government and health organisations.

Partners

The following organisations were involved in contributing to and guiding the project:

Angliss Hospital and Yarra Valley Community Health, Boroondara Council, Baptcare, Carrington Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Doncare, Donwood Community Aged Care Services, EACH, Eastern Health, EMPHN, Knox Council, Life Assist, Link Health and Community, Manningham City Council, Maroondah Council, Migrant Information Centre, Shire of Yarra Ranges, St Vincent’s Health, This Day and Age, Whitehorse Council.

Key outcomes

The resources produced provide an evidence base from which to identify health and wellbeing issues for older people, to support planning, and with the view to future collaborative action to address some of these. It included a full data report of more than 180 pages, a summary of the major findings, 2-page snapshots for each local government area, PCP area and the EMR, and excel data file. Partners have full access to all of these through the IEPCP website.

The report contains extensive qualitative and quantitative data about older people in the EMR and presents a comprehensive picture of their health and wellbeing, broken down by local government area in 10-year age groups. The report is presented within the World Health Organisation Healthy Healthy Ageing Framework and includes: personal characteristics such as ethnicity, gender and education; health characteristics such as rates of cancer or dementia; health behaviours such as healthy eating and smoking rates; and environments such as social and community networks. The report provides an evidence base for agencies across the EMR to assist with policy and planning to support healthy ageing and will provide a platform for collaborative work to support healthy ageing across the region and into the future.

The report format could be repeated when new data is released or updated.

Anecdotal feedback about the research was very positive:

“I need to acknowledge that the end Report has become an important evidence base for a number of internal and external situations that have required justification for the need for services or indeed due consideration to be given to older people in Knox!” (Knox Council, Coordinator Age Friendly Planning, May 2017)

“we posted the report on our website and in our newsletter and it has done really well! It was our top clicked link from this fortnights newsletter.” (OEPCP, March 2017)

The research has also been the catalyst for further discussion and focus on healthy ageing and what actions could improve the health and wellbeing of older people in the EMR, and has provided the groundwork for the IEPCP and the region to firm healthy ageing as a key priority.

How did the PCP contribute to this success?

The IEPCP took the lead and coordinated this research, including funding of additional staff and a consultant to deliver a high quality product. We provided genuine opportunities for our partners to contribute to the development of the information and resources, such as through the steering group and networks. Good quality resources about local needs are of high value to key partner agencies including local government and community health and are used in planning and funding activities.

The PCP continues to take leadership of collaborative effort, strategic direction and building the evidence-base for healthy ageing across the region.

We acknowledge the Wurundjeri people and other peoples of the Kulin nation as the traditional owners of the land on which our work in the community takes place. We pay our respects to their Elders past and present.

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