Dr Andrew Simon Gilbert is a research fellow at the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI)

Tell us a little bit about your journey into research.

I began doing research as part of my Honours and PhD dissertations in the sociology department at La Trobe University.

At the time, I was mainly interested in studying critical theory. Both my dissertation projects explored the limitations of what we call the Western Marxist tradition in being able to theorize social transformation in the contemporary world.

These projects were theoretical and literature based, so I did not employ any empirical methods. However, while at La Trobe I also worked as a Research Assistant for other La Trobe sociologists, and in that role I undertook the kinds of qualitative interviewing and literature reviews that more resemble the work I now do at NARI.

What research are you undertaking at NARI?

Most of my research at NARI currently concerns the ways older people encounter Australia's systems of care, such as aged care and healthcare, and the capacity of those systems to meet their needs.

This is quite a broad concern. It encompasses projects like Moving Pictures where we have been looking at how culturally and linguistically diverse carers for people with dementia perceive and engage with the aged care system.

It encompasses a project for the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, in which we want to understand the different perspectives on quality of care of the people working in and using residential aged care services.

And it also encompassed the project we completed for the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, which examined the interfaces between these systems and asked how better integration of aged care, healthcare and housing might improve those systems' capacities to meet older people's needs.

What excites you most about working in this field?

As a sociologist, I have always been very interested in the question of how large and complex social institutions have an impact on people's lives, for better or worse.

We often hear that Australia's population is ageing and that our healthcare and aged care infrastructure needs to keep apace with changing demand. At the same time, the community's expectations about the quality, accessibility and availability of services are also changing.

So I am interested in how systems can adjust to changes like this and what happens when they cannot or do not. I am also very interested in what people within these systems, whether they be older people or professionals, do in order to work around systemic limitations or bureaucracies and make the systems work for them.

Tell us a little bit about yourself outside of NARI

I live with my partner and our cat in a house in Fairfield. We live here because we are both big fans of the Yarra River and I spend a lot of my time walking, riding my bike or just hanging around near the river.

I am also involved in the Collingwood Rostrum public speaking club and I was club president during 2020.

Finally, I am involved in various activities with my old colleagues from La Trobe sociology. We publish an academic journal and a website called Thesis Eleven (https://thesiseleven.com/), we are involved in organizing various conferences and events both locally and internationally, and we're planning to start a podcast.