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Ageing is not just about decline, says ageing researcher

Dr Jed Montayre, Western Sydney University

There’s a shift happening in ageing research and education. It’s a shift, which not only recognises older people’s contribution to society but is also removing outdated ideas that define ageing as a time of deterioration and decline.

Dr Jed Montayre, Senior Lecturer from Western Sydney University, is a researcher whose work is redefining the way we view ageing.

“I’m interested in looking at how to make older people healthy and how to make their contributions to society more visible,” explains Dr Montayre.

Crucial to his research is input from older people at every step of the research process.

“Our ageing research is driven by a co-participatory and co-design perspective. That is, in all our research we always involve older people in advisory committees and as co-researchers. They are the drivers of our research, not just the participants.”

Equally important in ageing research, and when designing interventions for older people, is to move away from seeing ageing as a disability, explains Dr Montayre.

“We’re doing things differently now. For example, previous research into falls, looked at such things as the reasons for falls and the associated costs. However, I believe that if we really want to address falls we need to look at how to strengthen bones and use interventions which optimise wellbeing to prevent the falls in the first place.”

Programs also need to be multifaceted and not just focus on one element of health such as physical health. One of the programs Dr Montayre is currently looking at implementing is a speaking exchange program. Successfully run in the UK and US for the past eight years, the program tackles social isolation in aged care homes by linking residents with school children from other countries who are learning English.

“The older person acts as a conversation tutor which then allows the student to improve his/her English proficiency. The program teaches young children about older people while also helping older people who may be feeling socially isolated. It gives older people a sense of fulfilment that their contributions are being valued.”

The program is planned to be rolled out across several aged care facilities in South West Sydney within the next year.

In addition to researching ageing and implementing interventions for older people, Dr Montayre has been the  driving force behind the development of the new Masters of Ageing, Wellbeing and Sustainability which will be offered for the first time at Western Sydney University in Autumn 2021.

“Our Masters degree is a unique ageing course and is the first of its kind in Australia. It will take a multidisciplinary approach looking at ageing across a range of spectrums including health, city planning, business, policy-making and quality management. The Masters is an innovative course which will be tailored to the students who are taking the course using adaptive learning platforms.”

Ageing is inevitable. But it’s not just about decline. Through innovative research, relevant interventions and courses such as the Masters of Ageing there is a definite shift away from the old perspective. Ultimately, this shift will help to maximise older people’s health and wellbeing.

Dr Montayre’s work is certainly on the right track towards this goal.

By Linda Music