Older Territorians face lack of support


Northern Institute research fellow Dr Heather Gibb

Northern Institute research fellow Dr Heather Gibb

People ageing in remote communities of the Northern Territory are facing issues such as lack of access to suitable home support and home-care services despite recommendations of an inquiry to improve such services, new research has discovered.

Charles Darwin University Northern Institute research fellow Dr Heather Gibb surveyed residents of three ex-mining towns between Katherine and Darwin to inform her research titled “Five years on from the Inquiry: Caring for older Australians, what is the viability of ageing in remote places, in Australia?”.

“It is widely acknowledged that people in rural and in particular, remote places, are not well supported with services to age-in-place,” Dr Gibb said.     

“The Productivity Commission Inquiry of 2011 outlined a range of community concerns and potentially gave new impetus to the development of policies designed to support ageing-in-place in rural and remote communities.”

Dr Gibb said that while there had been improvements to medical services in remote areas, it was resources to support the aging population to live ”day to day” with issues such as reduced mobility, or not being able to cook for themselves where there remained a gap.

“The research indicated a lack of appropriate support services for older people living in remote communities in northern Australia, many of which had large numbers of Indigenous people,” she said.

 “They don’t have the access to the volunteer meal and transport services provided in the cities.”

She said a unique problem called for a unique solution and that more research into how to improve these support services in remote areas of the NT was needed.

“What we hope to look at next is how to create community support for ageing people in remote communities,” Dr Gibb said.

“In other areas of the NT there are programs that could be applied to communities in northern Australia, like the ‘The Old People’s Program’ which aims to provide support to older people in the Central Australian Indigenous community of Yuendumu.”

Dr Gibb said that with an ageing population on the increase across the north of Australia, a whole-of-community solution was required.

“Innovative coordination strategies are needed to forge collaboration between formal service provision and volunteer capacity, which already exists in communities,” she said.

Dr Gibb has worked in health, and remote aging health for more than 20 years. She will present her research at the Australian Disease Management Association and Chronic Diseases Network NT Conference on Monday, 11September at the Darwin Convention Centre.

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