Spirited study aims to help older Australians

University of Western Sydney researchers would like to hear the pastoral care experiences of the elderly, their families and the people who are delivering the service to the community. The information will be used in the first detailed study of services that tend the spiritual needs of older Australians.

Professor Lesley Wilkes from the UWS School of Nursing welcomes input from those closely connected to pastoral care, as understanding the nature of the service is a crucial step to making it even better.

"This is a great opportunity for people who are receiving pastoral care or have loved ones receiving it, to talk about their experiences - whether it's been worthwhile and how it could be improved," Professor Wilkes says.

"Australia's population is rapidly ageing. In less than 50 years, the percentage of older Australians will leap from 12 per cent to almost a quarter of the population. Tending their spiritual needs will be just as important as maintaining their physical health," she says.

"Pastoral care is often considered a low priority in Australia, largely because the benefit to individuals is not well understood. This study will broaden the limited knowledge of the service and provide a much-needed foundation of understanding of the practice and value of pastoral care," Professor Wilkes says.

The study will gather information from face-to-face interviews with elderly people receiving pastoral care, their relatives and the pastoral care workers, to build a picture from each of the three perspectives.

Pastoral care activities will be examined in nursing homes and community care - where people remain in their own homes.

Recruitment has already begun in Southern Cross Care and Our Lady of Consolation residential aged care facilities, and now Professor Wilkes is calling for participants from the general public.

"We would like to interview elderly people who are still living in their homes, are free from

Contact: Paul Grocott
Research Australia

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