Connection is key at Ageing Well convergence

In late October the Ageing Well Initiative hosted a convergence event that brought together over 80 attendees from across the health and aged care sectors, including hospital specialists, GPs, residential aged care representatives, Indigenous, community aged care providers, carers and consumers.

The Ageing Well Initiative is led by the Health Alliance—a partnership between Metro North Hospital and Health Service and Brisbane North PHN—that was formed to tackle healthcare problems transcending any one organisation.

The Initiative is co-designing a new system of care for people 75 years and over and Indigenous people 50 years and over, with an initial focus on those who live in The Prince Charles Hospital catchment area. The convergence event presented the opportunity to reflect and expand upon ideas that have emerged during this process.

The day offered a unique opportunity to bring people together including the Executive Director of Clinical Services at Metro North Hospital Health Service Dr Elizabeth Whiting, who said the event presented the potential to harness the skills of so many people, with so much expertise.

“There is huge opportunity here but you realize the complexity of what we’re facing when you see so many people in the room,” Dr Whiting said.

“There are so many different perspectives and so many different ways of looking at this, you really do need to have everyone in the room to get those new expansive ideas,” she said.

General Manager of the Health Alliance, Professor Don Matheson said that while participants at the convergence expressed their willingness to create change in the sector, it was apparent that not everyone was aware of what skills they could contribute to the process.

“It is obvious people want to create partnerships but their capacity to do so will need to be increased. Developing a partnership mindset will be key to implementing projects,” Professor Matheson said.

Stakeholders and partners attending included representation from peak bodies, state and federal departments of health, as well as consumers whose understanding and experience kept the big ideas grounded in reality.

Margaret, a consumer attending the event said, “I feel there is hope for the ageing community. The more I think about it, the more I think it (the event) was so beneficial.”

The convergence revealed there are many resources to draw upon to help achieve change, including access to community groups, specialist committees, GP networks and information-rich databases.

Professor Matheson said the importance of designing local solutions within the context of the region was another theme that emerged during the event.

“This reflects a commitment to person-centred care, rather than care that’s poorly coordinated or one-size-fits-all,” Professor Matheson said.

“For this vision of care to be realised the capacity of community-based services needs to be developed, which includes expanding existing services and incentives to attract and retain the workforce,” said Professor Matheson.

Discussions taking place at the event served as a reminder to all that the health journey is more than purely physical, with Dr Whiting proposing a holistic view of living and dying that included mental, social, emotional and spiritual factors.

“We don’t necessarily have a holistic approach for the individual currently, we don’t necessarily emphasise the things that matter to the individual, we don’t connect our care and we’re certainly not responsive to the needs of the individual in the place that they most want that care delivered,” Dr Whiting said.

Dr Whiting’s vision for the new system of care is one that’s closer to home, and one that focuses on what matters most to the older person.

“It’s a holistic approach that delivers what matters to the individual, which is delivered in the person’s home if possible. It’s responsive and it’s easy and connected; it’s wrapped around the patient, rather than wrapped around the system,” she said.

Some long term visions were solidified during the convergence, with the Ageing Well Initiative becoming clearer about immediate goals as well. These include changing the story about older people, forming care teams, reimagining residential aged care and building the capacity of community-based services.

As well as consolidating the insights that came from the convergence, the next steps in the process will find the Ageing Well Initiative continuing to facilitate the dialogue between valuable local connections who will be instrumental in designing this new system of care.