More and more Australians are living and working longer. This presents both a challenge and opportunity to individuals, the wider community and government. The Ageing, Work and Health Research Unit at the University of Sydney looks at finding ways of improving ageing experiences and enhancing the health of individuals and workers across the life span.
The Unit brings together a talented, multidisciplinary team conducting research of excellence aligned with the educational programs in the Faculty of Health Sciences including post graduate students. Staff research interests range from investigating the health of workers from youth to retirement through to reducing falls in the elderly and developing aged care policy. Our research provides the foundation for leading public debate and for contributing to policy development in response to population ageing in Australia and internationally.
The Unit works closely with the national ARC/NHMRC Research Network in Ageing Well which has its central hub in the Faculty of Health Sciences.
Researchers of the Ageing, Work and Health Research Unit work collaboratively with a range of government, professional and community organisations to promote, advocate, lead public debate and initiate policy in our areas of health expertise. Through our research output and commentary, we actively participate in the national and international public domain and contribute to leading bodies such as the World Health Organisation, the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing, National Seniors Australia and State Governments.
In summary, our research shapes government thinking, informs action and contributes to ageing and work being healthy and beneficial experiences.
Participation, Safety and Ageing – Led by Professor Lindy Clemson
The Participation, Safety and Ageing Team, led by Professor Lindy Clemson, has a strong record of achievement in developing and testing intervention programs in areas that have been identified as major markers of downward health trajectories. These have largely been in the area of falls prevention and more recently the challenges of coping with dementia into later life and remaining engaged in meaningful activity. These programs are underpinned by principles of enablement and are designed in consultation with older people. They aim to maintain independence and engagement in life roles and activities.
One example is the recently published LiFE program in the British Medical Journal, a program where balance and strength training is embedded in daily activity. This program arose from older people voicing the need for an alternative approach to traditional routine exercise. A joint symposium at the GSA in San Diego later this year will highlight four years of collaborative work with the University of Madison, Wisconsin to explore issues of sustainability and reach of community based falls prevention. This work has important implications for equity of access for urban and rural older people.
Work and Health – Led by Professor Philip Bohle
The Work and Health Research Team, led by Prof. Philip Bohle, investigates how to make work more sustainable. It aims to identify forms of work that enhance psychological and physical well-being while improving productivity and allowing organisations and communities to flourish. The Team’s research is divided into five streams that investigate:
- working hours, work-life balance and health
- the nature and effects of ‘flexible’ and insecure work
- policies and practices to reduce the impact of workplace deaths on families
- workplace health and safety policy
- the health, work ability and participation of older workers
This work is currently supported by seven research grants from the National Health and Medical Research Council, the ARC Discovery and Linkage Schemes, and various institutional partners, such as the NSW Office for Ageing.
Work and Care & Attitudes to Ageing — Led by Dr Kate O’Loughlin
Work and Care
Research is needed to establish a knowledge base on the inter-related factors of work, caregiving, and health for older workers. A key issue for policymakers worldwide is how people in later working life (itself extending to later ages) can care for, or otherwise support, growing numbers of older people unable to be fully independent because of illness or disability.
This program is being conducted as part of a three-way international collaboration between the Universities of Sydney, Leeds and Alberta focussing on multi-disciplinary and policy-relevant research, drawing on existing Australian and international data sources.
Attitudes to Ageing
This research program investigates people’s attitudes towards ageing in a variety of contexts including the effects of age discrimination in the work place, the effects of age discrimination on health and wellbeing and investigations into the outcomes for those with negative attitudes towards ageing.
Honorary Researcher — Professor Hal Kendig
Hal Kendig is Principal Investigator on the ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR) led by the University of New South Wales in collaboration with the Australian National University and the University of Sydney. He leads the CEPAR research program in Healthy and Productive Ageing and an ARC Discovery grant on socio-economic determinants of health and well-being among babyboomers in Australia and England. He collaborates in research on attitudes, aged care and health services, and international comparisons and contributes regularly to policy development and public debate.
The Heatwave Project – Led by Professor Deborah Black
The Heat– Ready project examines how Aged Care Facilities in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia are adapting to increasing temperatures and heatwaves. Heat-Ready is funded by the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) and is conducted at the University of Sydney in conjunction with James Cook University and the University of Adelaide. The project aims to:
- Identify the policies, plans, strategies and environmental factors, used by aged care facilities that can impact upon an older individual’s health during periods of extreme heat
- Assess the ability to which aged care facilities are able to adapt to the increasing occurrences of extreme heat conditions and hence, establish the heat-wave readiness of aged care facilities; and
- Through the identification of these aspects, the project aims to guide and inform State and Federal aged care policy makers in the formation of policies to enhance the health of older people.