Supporting Rural Ageing Well: Reconciling Organisational and On-the-Ground Practice Needs
Orpin, P and Walker, J and Baynes, H and Boyer, K, Supporting Rural Ageing Well: Reconciling Organisational and On-the-Ground Practice Needs, Conference Program and Abstracts, 5-7 December 2011, Adelaide, pp. 1-20. (2011) [Conference Extract]
Objective: As Australia’s population ages, it becomes increasingly important to shift focus from the provision of passive aged care to policies and services designed to better support older people to remain active, engaged and contributing citizens into old age. Our ARC Linkage study spoke at length to older rural people about what forms of services and supports would best help them to age well within their communities.
Methods: We conducted in-depth interviews with 69 community-dwelling older people across three sites in rural Tasmania triangulated with focus groups and interviews with 32 on-the-ground service providers and 11 senior managers.
Lessons Learnt: The majority of participants presented as deeply embedded in their communities, independent, self-reliant, and stoic, with a tendency to normalise the challenges and losses associated with ageing. This makes them reluctant and wary help-seekers and acceptors, regardless of need. In order to support such clients, on-the-ground providers need to be very flexible, circumspect and patient in their approaches based on an in-depth understanding of, and relationship with, each individual and their community. Such approaches do not always sit comfortably with the tight regulatory, accountability and efficiency requirements of bureaucratic organisations, at times leaving practitioners working in a vulnerable space at the margins of their official scopes of duty and practice.
Implications:. There is an urgent need to develop more sophisticated ground-level regulatory, evaluative and accountability methodologies that meet the needs of bureaucratic organisations and their funding bodies without unduly restricting age support worker’s professional judgement and flexibility in the field.