Bernie Goldie

Yabbies and aged care . . .

What do yabbies and aged care have in common? – a lot judging by a recent opening held on the south coast.

UOW researchers attended the official opening of the Aquaponics Garden at the Basin View Masonic Village.

Dr Pia Winberg, Associate Professor Helen Hasan, Dr Alison Wicks (now at Canberra University) and Dr Ursula King were part of the community outreach team that enjoyed seeing the fruits of collaboration delivering a real world improvement to aged and dementia care residents.

Managers at the village have already noted the benefits of residents experiencing improved quality of life by spending time working with, or just being in, the garden -- with some of the residents starting to speak again.

In addition, residents are reportedly more eager to eat the fruits of their garden than other food. Staff and especially family members are notably more able to spend quality time with their loved ones in what is otherwise a challenging time of life to experience.

In 2011, Dr Winberg was approached by managers at the Basin View Masonic Village about developing an aquaponics system that would be suitable for residents and dementia sufferers to interact with, and from which, to source food.

This set in motion a series of collaborations with external partners at Earthan group, but importantly with researchers in occupational and health sciences at UOW. The aquaculture system was going beyond the boundaries of just marine and freshwater research and into improved quality of life for retired residents as well as their families and staff carers.

That's when Dr Wicks (Australasian Occupational Science Centre) and Professor Hasan (Information Systems and Co-Director of the Social Innovation Network (SInet)) stepped in to document the story of the project and the benefits to a better quality of life for the residents.

As well, Dr King joined in as a medical clinician who is undertaking a Master by Research project in how improved quality of life contribute to overall better health for the residents in care.

The project was funded by the Royal Freemasons' Benevolent Institution and the whole community including gardening groups, local schools, scouts and community services have all contributed time and effort to this project that attracted a strong crowd at the launch.

Dr Winberg said it was a tangible demonstration of how community outreach can deliver transformative, real and important benefits in our region.


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  • Attending the official opening of the Aquaponics Garden are (from left) Dr Ursula King, Paul Van der Werf (Earthan Group), Dr Pia Winberg, Dr Alison Wicks and Associate Professor Helen Hasan

  • A view of the Aquaponics Garden

  • Gravid yabbies on display on opening day