The true value of student care: Intergenerational impact and future-proofing services

What do we mean when we say UQ Healthy Living’s student workforce is an asset to our clients both now and into the future? What is unique about the interactions you have with our allied health team; and could you be contributing to a healthier future for your generation simply by looking after yourself? Let’s look beyond the indisputable value for money and consider the additional and often unexpected benefits offered by a student resourced service.

By 2050, a quarter of the population will be over 65. The large baby boom cohort is currently setting the lifestyle and health trajectories which will carry them into the coming decades. It is vital that we create a sustainable workforce that is adequately trained to support these Australians today and tomorrow.

The disparity between the number of students going on to choose employment in aged care and those who choose more relatable clinical settings, is well recognised. Recent studies found that a positive clinical placement characterised by appropriate training and support in an environment focused on quality care, can produce positive attitudes to older people among students (Wallace et al 2007). Your participation with UQHL’s services exposes practitioners-in-training to the stimulating, dynamic work environment that caring for over 50s offers; and can demonstrate the complex needs and opportunities for allied health care in this space. Our clients positively reflect on ‘giving back’ to assist in the students’ development and their contribution as a client remains invaluable.

In addition to future-proofing your health services, student care brings with it a contagious energy from which our clients draw inspiration. The positive effects of intergenerational interaction are well documented, and there is much academic discussion around the potential born of intercepting life experience and youthful perspective, in a shared and meaningful purpose. A Spanish study (Hernandez 2008) of 179 university students and 101 seniors demonstrated remarkable results in an intergenerational care environment, including reduced stereotypes, improved opinions of each other, and improved state of mind.

Fueled with knowledge from the latest research and eager to explore its applications, our students provide attentive care, and view our client’s success as their own. Furthermore, our clients gladly contribute to the exchange, generously sharing their experiences and working with students to explore treatment pathways.

The student /client partnership can result in genuine connections. Studies show that seniors with a strong network not only live longer, but also cope better with health conditions and experience less depression.  Whereas, lonely people have a faster cognitive decline than those who have more satisfying social connections. Regular interactions with your student practitioners working towards a common goal, builds trust and provides valuable interaction.

Effects of Intergenerational Interaction on Aging, Hernandez; Educational Gerontology, 34: 292–305, 2008
Robinson A et al (2008) Modelling connections in aged care: development of an evidence-based/best practice model to facilitate quality clinical placements in aged care, Report on Stages 1-3, Dept of Health and Ageing, University of Tasmania, Queensland University of Technology, University of South Australia, Edith Cowan University
Wallace, C et al (2007) ‘Teaching nursing home: development of an Australian model’, Geriaction, Spring, 5-11