South Australia pegs childcare in aged care homes as part of healthy ageing plan – but must navigate new COVID-19 environment

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Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade says exploring the benefits of childcare in aged care will be one of a number of initiatives to be explored in the Government’s five-year plan to help South Australians age better.

Around 40% of the state’s population is aged over 50, making it one of the largest populations of older people in Australia. Among this group, 95% of South Australians aged over 65 live independently at home, while one in four aged 85 and over live in aged care.

Under ‘South Australia’s Plan for Ageing Well 2020-2025’, the Government’s Office for Ageing Well – which oversees its retirement villages and Seniors Card as well as its wider aged care strategy – will partner with Not For Profit provider ACH Group, City West Child Care Centre, and University of South Australia to establish a Child Care in Aged Care project looking at the health and wellbeing benefits for residents and children.

The Plan is based on three key priorities determined from the Government’s consultation with older South Australians – keeping people living well at home, ensuring they have meaningful connections with others and building resilience against life’s changes such as moving into residential care.

Other aged care providers have successfully incorporated childcare into their models – think private Melbourne-based provider TLC Healthcare and WA’s Oryx Communities.

But COVID-19 has thrown a spanner in the works.

Until the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) recently updated its advice, children aged under 16 were banned from visiting aged care homes while large group visits are still not permitted.

Multiple childcare centres have also been forced to close their doors in Melbourne after children or workers tested positive in the recent spate of community outbreaks.

Will providers be able to find the right balance between helping residents stay connected with their community and maintain infection controls?