Elderly struggle with transport: research

Sarah Wiedersehn
(Australian Associated Press)


Most older Australians want to remain mobile and live independently at home but accessing transport is proving confusing and challenging for many, new research suggests.

An inquiry into the experiences of the aged care system led by University of Sydney researcher Professor Yun-Hee Jeon in partnership with the Whiddon Aged Care Group has offered insight into the issues older Australians face when trying to access services.

The qualitative longitudinal study conducted in 2016 involved more than 100 participants – 57 residents aged from 59 to 92 and about 54 aged care providers – for the qualitative longitudinal study.

Professor Jeon visited eights areas in NSW, including Sydney’s eastern suburbs, where she interviewed the elderly about their needs, wants and concerns.

They were also asked about their experience using the federal government’s My Aged Care service.

It was found that the loss of mobility was a major concern among those interviewed. Access to reliable transport was considered “crucial” for meeting domestic, health and social needs, says Prof Jeon.

However the study found “insufficient” public transport resulted in consumers’ dependency on family or community services.

Availability of transport services with disability access and access to cab vouchers were commonly reported problems, according to the research.

“The transport services are useful for people who are mobile but they are not necessarily helpful if they have dementia or have a physical disability,” Prof Jeon said.

“In the country towns buses don’t come around often enough so they rely on taxi vouchers,” she added.

Long waiting times for domestic and personal care services was another common complaint among the participants, the inquiry found.

“Consumers identified examples in which required home modification, and health care equipment were not provided due to a lack of availability of services (long waiting times) and high cost of equipment,” the research report said.

The “worrying” issues have been largely blamed on the recent and numerous changes to the aged care system in Australia.

“Before My Aged Care, there were issues but I have never heard that many negative comments from the people in the community,” Prof Jeon told AAP.

In 2015, the federal government introduced My Aged Care, which acts as the gateway to aged care services.

Anyone who wishes to access a particular service has to go through the online My Aged Care website.

Having spent hours talking with consumers and providers, Prof Yun-Hee says the overarching experience was one of confusion among this generation of older residents.

The report said: “The MyAgedCare (MAC) website was challenging for consumers accessing aged care services as many were unaware of its existence and functionality and were not accustomed to using computers or the internet. Hearing or vision impairments and greater comfort with face-to-face communication presented additional challenges.”

A follow-up investigation is planed for 2018 to find out if the situation has changed.

“Hopefully things have improved,” Prof Jeon said.

The federal minister for aged care was contacted for comment.


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