A new model for healthy senior living and integrated school communities  


One of the greatest challenges for Australian society is the separation of generations which can impact quality of life for our older adults (social isolation) and engagement of our youth. Unemployment and inactive lifestyles, in regional and urban areas exacerbate separation levels, contributing to mental health issues and affecting general wellbeing of our whole community. Senior living facilities and education campuses are often designed in a way which maintains isolation and deepens the divide.

The GrandSchools project is a National Health and Medical Research funded research project led by a diverse team from Queensland University of Technology, Australian Catholic University, and Western Sydney University.  The program aims to work closely with industry partners to investigate shared campuses in the Australian context. 

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.

Our Vision

Our vision is to deepen relationships, connectivity, and understandings between generations.  

We will do this by designing and creating intentional space for co-learning, co-care, co-fitness and co-creation benefiting health, well-being, and continued learning of older adults and students.

Our expertise

Our team offers a diverse range of research expertise encompassing allied health, behavioural sciences, architecture, built environment and design.

Research Program

This research has two streams: healthy programs and healthy campus planning.

The program will be incrementally refined over three stages which seek to contextualise the risks, impediments and benefits of the proposal. The first stage will develop thematic understanding of existing societal, policy, operational, planning and design, and health and wellbeing factors. This knowledge will then be directly applied to selected small scale case study projects which will examine the complex interrelationships and challenges associated with intergenerational programs and campus planning. The concluding stage of the research plan will incrementally evaluate, cost and refine the model and develop a decision support tool that can be used by the senior living and education sector, and local and state governments. Case Studies Research and case-study projects through four PhD projects are designed to gather multidisciplinary (health services, planning and design) knowledge to support program development, and design and operation of these facilities. Small case study projects or pilots will be embedded within Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. The case study projects will be drawn from our industry partners as well as others identified early in the project timeline

ACU Research Projects

ACU is leading the Healthy Programs stream.  This stream has two main focus areas:

The aim of Co-Operative Spaces is to design/implement/evaluate intergenerational cooperative programs in creative arts (co-creation), horticulture/hospitality (co-care), IT/media (co-learning), and/or fitness (co-fitness) to determine engagement and change in health outcomes for participants.

PhD Program: An Ecological Perspective Examining Participation, Health, And Well-Being In Intergenerational Programs

PhD Lead: Hannah Forbes

Supervisors: Associate Professor Gert-Jan Pepping, Professor Suzanne Kuys, Dr Rosamund Harrington

Intergenerational programs involve individuals from different generations participating in shared environments, tasks and activities, with the goal of promoting engagement, health and well-being. This program of research aims to adopt an ecological perspective to examine the influence of individual, environment, and task constraints/factors on health and well-being outcomes in intergenerational programs in creative arts (co-creation), horticulture/hospitality (co-care), IT/media (co-learning), and/or exercise (co-fitness) involving youth (aged 12-19) and older adults (aged 55 and over). The project includes a review of health and well-being measures applied to evaluate intergenerational programs, interviews and focus groups to explore intergenerational models and exploration of the dynamic interactions between individual, environment, and task factors that may influence health and well-being outcomes for youth and older adults engaging in intergenerational programs. Findings may inform evidence-based approaches to maximise participation, health, and well-being in intergenerational programs and contribute to the design of co-operate living and learning spaces that support all generations ageing well together.

The aim of YSSE is to assess the feasibility of implementing school-based traineeships and social enterprises for high school students in an intergenerational living and learning campus (e.g. onsite café, part-time, gardens)

PhD Program: Understanding the Role of Personality, Culture, And Motive: Conceptualising A Framework for An Effective Intergenerational Program 

PhD Lead: Mizan Ahmad 

Supervisors: Associate Professor Gert-Jan Pepping, Professor Suzanne Kuys, Dr Rosamund Harrington

Negative attitudes toward outside groups may derive from the lack of exposure in knowledge and engagements of the other group. This concept may be used to understand the despairing attitudes between the youth and older adults which may implicate future societal structure and prevalence of ageism following an increase of the ageing population in recent years.  A proposed method to overcome the social segregation is through the introduction of intergenerational programs that would facilitate the learning and psychosocial development of youth and seniors. This project aims to clarify the potential benefits (choice of career for youths; quality of life for seniors) of an intergenerational Youth Social Enterprise model as well as identifying the bi-directional changes in attitudes between Youth and Seniors following a co-location engagement.   


Researcher profiles

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.

Supervisor Profile: Dr Suzanne Kuys

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.

Supervisor Profile: Associate Professor Gert-Jan Pepping

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.

Supervisor Profile: Dr Ros Harrington 

Mizan Ahmad

 Mizan Ahmad 

Mizan is a PhD candidate at the Australian Catholic University (Banyo Campus). He has completed his studies in the Bachelor of Applied Science (Psychology) at RMIT University and the Graduate Diploma of Professional Psychology (First Class Equivalent) from Monash University. His research interests lies in the domains of developmental, personality, clinical, and burnout research where he has explored academic burnout, social media addiction, narcissism, Big-5 personality traits, and intergenerational programs to-date. Mizan is also an honours research supervisor and has been engaged as a sessional academic across multiple universities in Australia.

Researcher Profile: Mizan Ahmad

Hannah Forbes


Hannah graduated with a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy with Honours from the Australian Catholic University (Brisbane) in 2017. Hannah has key interests in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, child and youth mental health, creative arts, animal assisted therapies, paediatrics, health promotion and prevention, research and academics. Hannah's undergraduate honours thesis investigated occupational therapists' perceptions and utilisation of creative activities in child and youth mental health services across Australia. Hannah has previously worked as a paediatric and adult occupational therapist at the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) in Brisbane and as an occupational therapist at Psychology and Animal Assisted Wellbeing (PAAW). Hannah is currently working as a sessional academic/tutor at the Australian Catholic University in Brisbane. Hannah is a PhD candidate at the Australian Catholic University and member of the GrandSchools project, investigating the influence of co-operative spaces for living and learning pathways on the health and well-being of adolescents and older adults in urban and regional Australia.

Researcher Profile: Hannah Forbes


Intergenerational living and learning: The value and risks of co-locating retirement villages on secondary school campuses – Evaluating the GrandSchools vision

Mark Trotter,Paul Sanders,Marissa Lindquist,Evonne Miller,Aso Hajirasouli,Andrea Blake,Rosamund Harrington,Heidi Olsen,Tanja Tyvimaa,Gert-Jan Pepping,Suzanne Kuys,Robin Drogemuller

First published: 04 July 2022 https://doi.org/10.1111/ajag.13111

Get involved

Interested in getting involved in research? 

Our list of studies open for recruitment is listed below. For further information or to discuss other opportunities available, please contact Dr Heidi Olsen, Research Program Manager: Heidi.Olsen@acu.edu.au


The role of personality, culture and motives on intergenerational attitudes

Our research team is conducting a study to understand the role of personality, culture, and motives on intergenerational attitudes. Participation in this study will assist us to add to existing literature on intergenerational programs involving youth and older adults.

We are looking to recruit:

• Older adults (people aged 50 years or older)
• Youth aged 12 to 18 years old (with parental/guardian consent)

If you or someone you know meet the mentioned criteria, we would like to invite you to complete the survey and express your interest to partake in future studies via this link: https://redcap.link/IGP-Survey (Full Link: https://rdcap.acu.edu.au/surveys/?s=J49TAKJKTN

Work with us

If you’d like to work with us, please contact Dr Heidi Olsen, Research Program Manager: Heidi.Olsen@acu.edu.au

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