Intergenerational programs have demonstrated positive impacts on physical and mental health. Programs can involve early childhood cohorts with seniors, and aged care facilities designed in university environments. This National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funded project brings together a consortium of universities and industry partners to research integrating senior living with secondary school environments. Such an endeavour adds complexity to intergenerational models – but also provides benefits and opportunities for societal problems, such as healthy living, social inclusion, and learning pathways for seniors and young people. The research will provide much needed empirical data to support the evolution and development of intergenerational models.

The overarching project aims to develop an innovative organisational structure and facility model that works for both senior living and high school education in terms of finance, legalities, spatial planning, safety, active engagement, and healthy learning and living. It will embed significant innovation in architectural and urban planning of a new model which allows all groups access and workable enjoyment of joint facilities. The project comprises of four interconnected PhD projects, two of which are based at ACU: the Cooperative Spaces Project and the Youth Social Enterprise Employment Project.

The projects

The Cooperative Spaces Project

The overall focus of this project will be on active engagement, and healthy intergenerational learning and living. The aim is to design, implement and evaluate intergenerational cooperative programs in creative arts (co-creation), horticulture/hospitality (co-care), IT/media (co-learning), and/or exercise (co-fitness). The project includes a review of existing models of intergenerational and co-situated or connected senior living and high school facilities via a range of possible methodologies, including interactive movement and health behaviour analysis, case study data collection, observations, and key informant interviews and surveys.

The Youth Social Enterprise Employment Project

The overall focus of this project will be on social enterprise development within senior living and school-based settings in the context of intergenerational living and learning. The aim is to assess the feasibility of implementing school-based traineeships and social enterprises for high school students in an intergenerational living and learning campus like an onsite cafe, personal training or gardens maintenance. The project includes a review of existing policy, legislation and programs related to school-based traineeships, VET pathways, and social enterprise development within senior living and school-based settings; and establishment and evaluation of a pilot-social enterprise which provides opportunities for skills transfer between seniors and youth in external and internal living environments, across horticultural, hospitality and fitness/care domains.

About the NHMRC research project

The two ACU based projects contribute to an overarching NHMRC funded research project: An Inter-generational Learning and Living Campus: A New Model for Healthy Senior Living and Integrated School Communities across Urban and Regional Australia – or, in short, the Grandschools Project. This project brings together a consortium of universities and industry partners and acts upon recommendations from the Inquiry into the Quality of Care and Residential Aged Care in Australia 2018 (IQCRAC) by developing an intergenerational model for senior living within school campuses in consultation with industry partners. The project differs from existing programs by establishing an economic policy-driven 'shared campus facilities and services' approach, which is person-centred, health focused and socially inclusive. The model intends to be translatable across diverse Australian contexts, from urban realms where land is limited, and regionally, where closer engagement between generations will maintain social networks.

The project further responds to urgent national workforce development needs and health training demand in senior living and provides an integrated model for co-located school-based vocational pathways for youth in senior living settings. The model aims to create intentional space for co-learning, co-care, co-fitness and co-creation benefiting health, wellbeing, and continued learning of residents and students. The vision is to deepen relationships, connectivity, and understandings between generations. This includes improving intercultural understanding and decreasing social isolation for seniors, consistent with the ‘change of culture’ recommendation of IQCRAC.

The proposed model is to be developed between Queensland University of Technology/ACU/Deakin University researchers, senior living and education industry partners, and community representatives. The model will be incrementally refined over three stages seeking to contextualise the risks, impediments and benefits of co-situated senior living/educational settings.

Initial stages will develop thematic understanding of societal, policy, operational, planning, and health and wellbeing factors. This knowledge will be applied to case study projects examining complex interrelationships and challenges across Australia. The research will be concluded by refining and evaluating the model with industry and community for use as a decision support tool for the sector and to develop new design approaches for integrated campus communities.

The research team is comprised of investigators from Queensland University of Technology (built environment/design), ACU (allied health/behavioural and health sciences), Deakin University, and Fulton Trotter Architects Brisbane. The project team is further complimented by associate investigators and industry partners from Lutheran Services, Wesley Mission Queensland, Redeemer Lutheran College, Fulton Trotter Architects Sydney, Minx Architecture, Edmund Rice Education Australia and the Association for Learning Environments Australasia QLD.

About the ACU project leads

Professor Suzanne Kuys

Professor Suzanne Kuys

Professor Suzanne Kuys is National Head of the School of Allied Health at ACU. Her research interests include optimising participation in older adults and people following stroke. She is particularly interested in promoting physical activity, community walking and optimising the transition from hospital to the home of older adults. Professor Kuys has been awarded and recognised for her research and clinical expertise.

Associate Professor Gert-Jan Pepping

Associate Professor Gert-Jan Pepping

Associate Professor Gert-Jan Pepping is Deputy Head at the School of Behavioural and Health Sciences, ACU. His research focus is in sport, exercise and healthy ageing, including falls prevention and the influence of the built environment and physical activity on the prevention of falls. Associate Professor Pepping is the Chief Investigator on a number of projects in which mobility and gait are monitored for community dwelling older adults in the context of campus-based community walking.

Dr Rosamund Harrington

Dr Rosamund Harrington

Dr Rosamund Harrington is a lecturer in occupational therapy within the School of Allied Health at ACU. She holds a PhD in Policy and Administration from the University of Queensland. Her research interests include exploring the intersections of Commonwealth, state and territory-based policy and legislative frameworks across multiple policy domains, with a focus on vocational pathways and creative activity.

Prior to academia, Dr Harrington was a senior occupational therapist with 15 years clinical experience, and interdisciplinary clinical educator in acquired brain injury rehabilitation services. She was co-founder and convenor of a cross-government advisory group to improve pathways to community living for adults with acquired brain injury and high care needs in Queensland.

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