A whole population approach to ageing and dying well requires a re-imagination of aged services and communities. For service providers, the challenge is to work with people in respectful, empowering partnerships that promote wellness. For the community, it means stepping up to the responsibility of caring for each other throughout the life course. What happens when a community development perspective is applied to residential aged care to bring the community in? While the individual and collective benefits of social networks are well recognised, little is being done to move towards network-centred care for our expanding ageing populations. The goal of the 10K Project, a collaboration between The Groundswell Project, Southern Cross Care, and Western Sydney University, was to develop an effective replicable community development model for the aged care sector. It aims to create connections with the surrounding community, identify and overcome possible barriers to implementing community development, and discover examples of best practice. Methods adopted involved social network mapping, interviews, and focus groups with residents, families, staff, and the community before, during, and after placement of a community development worker embedded in an aged care facility. Pre-intervention, residents reported feeling lonely and socially isolated. With the introduction of the community development worker, the tension between the needs of the organisation and the needs of the community became evident. The question then became how to resolve these tensions. This study reports on preliminary findings, identifying barriers and opportunities associated with a community development model in residential aged care.
I am Senior Research Officer at Western Sydney and Adjunct Research Fellow at the University of New England, Australia, working on projects related to end-of-life care and older age sexuality in clinical and aged care settings. As a researcher and former sex therapist, I am passionate about shining a light on social 'taboos' and strting the difficult-but necessary conversations that tend to be avoided. My research interests include social justice issues faced by older adults, including their sexual relationships in the context af health and aged care settings, death and dying.