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New approach needed for aged care: design

Elderly female washing the dishes

By Claire Matthews

A new design-centred approach to aged care may be the answer to providing better support for healthy ageing. 

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety called for a review of Australia’s aged care system and found many complex issues. 

A new approach is needed to adequately address these issues that blend ideas from health, humanities, economics, and the arts and design fields. 

Professor Lisa Scharoun from QUT said multidisciplinary collaboration and design thinking are part of the long term solution for better aged care in Australia. 

“A one size fits all point of view around ageing is completely inadequate. Such a major global challenge cannot be tackled from the perspective of a single discipline.

“At its core, ageing is a social issue and should be considered within the framework of sustainable development, under which falls social, economic and environmental issues.”

Prof Scharoun said we need to shift the focus from seeing ageing as a progressive deterioration to healthy ageing. 

“We have instead focussed on ‘healthy ageing’; the importance of working towards supporting and maintaining the functional and mental abilities of individuals to enable well-being into older age.   

“This involves reflecting on and influencing the design of environments, experiences, products and services that can best allow people to live an independent and fulfilling life well into advanced age.

“We don’t assume healthy ageing is about eradicating chronic disease and mobility issues. Instead, it focuses on how we might support and create conditions to better support people with a variety of complex needs.”

By bringing design into health conversations, we can create more positive outcomes, said Prof Scharoun. 

“Design thinking is not commonly taught to student nurses, yet its approaches are increasingly being employed to drive innovation in care quality, safety and effectiveness.

“Nursing students are generally much more attuned to a method of problem-solving that is more linear and convergent, while design students approach problems differently but have a limited understanding and experience of healthcare systems. By bringing the two together, we enabled students to learn from each other’s practices.”

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