5 July 2020

NARI was recently approached by the University College London to become its Australian partner to replicate and extend its longitudinal social study on the impact of COVID-19.  While not specifically for older people, NARI is particularly interested in outcomes for older people.

This study is important.  There are limited studies of its kind measuring wellbeing effects of COVID19 across time – both during the pandemic and in the recovery phases.  Results will help inform Australia’s response and recovery.

I encourage you to participate in the study’s survey, and to share it with your networks.  Survey details are discussed in this newsletter.

NARI is acutely aware of the impact of COVID19 on older Australians, not only in terms of higher mortality risk, but impact on many aspects of life.  Not only have older people borne the brunt of social isolation, but ageism has raised its ugly head in public debate and there is increased risk for perpetration of elder abuse within families at this time.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on 15 June, drew attention to this important but poorly acknowledged issue in our communities.  The World Health Organisation estimates 10% of older people globally are victims of abuse, and during disasters such as the current coronavirus pandemic we know risk for elder abuse increases.

NARI has commenced a study to investigate primary prevention of elder abuse during disasters, including the current pandemic.  We have also recently launched a new film series on elder abuse in the context of dementia, which has been well received by workers in the health and aged care sectors.  The films detail how workers should respond if elder abuse of an older person with dementia is suspected, but I urge anyone concerned about the wellbeing of an older person to watch the films – links are in this newsletter.

I met recently with Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, to discuss NARI’s research and how we are supporting older people during COVID19.

We have developed COVID19 website resources dedicated to keeping people informed, healthy and connected.   We have published in international journals to raise awareness of the immediate and potential ongoing effects on older people, and have made videos to help people exercise at home.

NARI has also transitioned our current research to on-line or phone interventions. For example, our BEFRIENDAS project, which involves face-to-face bi-weekly visits from trained volunteers to aged care residents, has transitioned to letter writing, phone contacts and videoconferencing where possible.

Our PITCH dementia training program for home care workers is being redesigned as a real time on-line program, and our elder abuse prevention intergenerational intervention will be fully conducted via phone or videoconference.

I welcome the appointment of Victoria’s first dedicated Minister for Medical Research, the Hon Jaala Pulford MP.  It is very positive to see medical research given the prominence it deserves, particularly at this time, and I look forward to speaking with the Minister about NARI’s research and its importance to improving the quality of life and health of older people.

I’d also like to formally welcome NARI’s new Director of Aged Care Research, Dr Joan Ostaszkiewicz.  Joan brings to NARI enormous clinical and research expertise in the nursing care of frail older people, with particular expertise in incontinence.   She has strong collaborative relationships with international research groups and is a great addition to the clinical research expertise of NARI.

Lastly, my recent leadership opinion editorial in Insight magazine, draws attention to the poorly understood and appreciated aged care workforce, whose work is critically important to the wellbeing of aged care residents and the broader community.  They should be applauded for the care they have shown older people during the COVID pandemic.
Professor Briony Dow
NARI Director.