Older people at forefront of framework

A new resource delivering age-friendly healthcare to older people has been unveiled, following years of collaboration with seven North East health services and La Trobe University’s John Richards Centre for Rural Ageing Research.

The Indigo 4Ms project was designed to support the development of a new model of healthcare that is sensitive to the needs of older people and stimulates discussion on long-term policy responses to support age-friendly environments.

Led by Beechworth Health Service, the initiative was funded by the Federal Government and developed by experts and healthcare professionals who work with older people, as well as community members with experience using health and aged care services.

Dr Rachel Winterton, Senior Research Fellow at the John Richards Centre, said reaching the milestone was a proud moment for the team.

“This is the culmination of seven years’ collaboration between many organisations to make sure we can deliver age-friendly care in a rural context,” Dr Winterton said.

“We’re confident it will contribute to better health outcomes in the region and support older people to access more integrated, holistic care.”

The project developed two tools: one for the older generation to use as a conversational guide with healthcare providers, and a second for healthcare professionals to guide conversations with older people.

“These tools will lead to more informed discussions between health services and the communities they serve,” Dr Winterton said.

“It will also ensure both sides are speaking the same language. We’re hopeful this will lead to more timely care for older people and support them to access the whole spectrum of healthcare they may need.”

Beechworth resident Wendy Kelly said she was grateful to be part of a project that improves the outcomes for older people.

“It was an opportunity to be part of something from the ground up and express what matters to me and members of my community,” Wendy said.

The scarcity of health prevention activities that specifically target the common age-related difficulties of hearing, seeing, moving and remembering, which have the greatest impact on an older person’s physical and mental capabilities, were the catalyst for developing the tools.

Beechworth Health Service CEO, Dr Mark Ashcroft, said agencies are looking forward to putting the tools into action.

“We’re incredibly enthusiastic about the partnership nature of work to come as implementation of the Indigo 4Ms tools are rolled out,” Dr Ashcroft said.

The partner agencies include:

  • John Richards Centre for Rural Ageing Research, La Trobe University
  • Albury Wodonga Health
  • Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service
  • Beechworth Health Service
  • Corryong Health
  • Gateway Health
  • Tallangatta Health Service
  • Yackandandah Health

Glenda Chapman, a member of the Health Coordination team at Albury Wodonga Health, said the co-design practice was crucial, but proved challenging at times.

“Facing the challenges as a diverse group with a united purpose meant that more ideas and learnings were shared and there was a much broader understanding of not only the 4Ms Framework, but also of each other’s perspectives and experiences,” Glenda said.

“If we gave in to the temptation to just jump in and create without taking the time to learn from each other, the end product would not have been as rich and useful.”

The work will be launched on 3 October by Adjunct Professor Ruth Stewart, National Rural Health


It will also signal the commencement of two new grants to put both tools into practice, which were funded by a Commonwealth Integrated Models of Care grant and the State Trustees Australia Foundation.

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