A pioneering healthy ageing project in the Hepburn Shire has been expanded to three additional Hepburn Shire towns of Daylesford, Trentham and Creswick after a successful pilot program in Clunes.

The project is a result of a partnership between Clunes Neighbourhood House (CNH), Attitude – Ageing Well in Clunes, and Central Highlands Rural Health (CHRH) and is backed by the Western Victoria Primary Health Network (PHN) and encompasses two key strategies designed to empower older individuals and improve their quality of life.

The project is part of the Australian Government’s response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, with funding provided by the PHNs to undertake and commission dedicated early intervention initiatives that support older people to live at home longer and promote healthy ageing. The project has received a total funding of $350,000 from the Western Victoria Primary Health Network.

By working together, CNH, Attitude, and CHRH aim to create a collaborative environment where each organisation’s intellectual and physical resources are combined to maximise the impact on people’s lives and enable them to live and age well. The project seeks to inspire healthy habits, foster connections, and provide ongoing support to ensure these positive changes persist well into the later years.

The first phase of the project was to develop a ‘healthy ageing hub’ prototype in Clunes that would provide a range of connections, activities, and resources in partnership with community groups and the second phase was to use the lessons learned from the pilot hub in Clunes to expand the project’s reach and impact across the region. Since the launch of the pilot in Clunes in June 2023, the programs have been launched through a series of events in Trentham (March 5), Creswick (March 6) and Daylesford (March 8) held at their local neighbourhood centres with members of the community in attendance.

“This project is about enhancing people’s lives by reducing the risk of isolation which we know can lead to poor health outcomes and impacted quality of life,” said  Central Highlands Rural Health Deputy CEO Phil Catterson. “We wanted to make sure that people have access to information and opportunities to connect with their community as those who are active in their community can feel more purpose in life which has many positive health benefits. This project is about building a healthy community through better connections.”

Working closely with local neighbourhood centres, the healthy ageing project builds on existing community initiatives and local groups to centralise accurate information on programs and groups available to the community through the creation of a “What’s On” guide. This printed booklet has a detailed list of groups available to those in the community with information on how to get involved. At each neighbourhood centre in Creswick, Daylesford and Trentham there has been a kiosk installed that the community can use to find programs and groups to join to stay connected with technical support being offered by the neighbourhood centres and the program volunteers.

“A key outcome of the pilot program in Clunes has been improved connections through existing groups and community services,” said Clunes Neighbourhood House Manager Lana de Kort. “We’ve been able to reach out to people that we wouldn’t necessarily have known who might be in vulnerable positions or at risk of isolation to form connections and look out for their wellbeing.”

Attitude – Ageing Well in Clunes Manager Linda Newitt thought that the Clunes hub had reactivated community connections between the various clubs of Clunes that had frayed during COVID. “We have learnt that keeping all our groups strong keeps our town strong,” she said.  “All three partners and a number of our local groups had the opportunity to come together under the Living and Ageing Well in Hepburn banner at the Clunes Show recently and it was terrific to see the grass roots connections really firing and inspiring people to try new things that they may not have otherwise thought about.”

Daylesford Neighbourhood Centre Manager Danny Liversidge is excited about the opportunity to meet  both present and future needs of the community and its surrounding areas. “Our community is not immune to the global trend of ageing populations so we need to evolve to empower and propel our community into a brighter tomorrow,” he said. “By fostering partnerships and embracing the community approach of this project, we are providing access to the support and resources they need to thrive.”

This article is based on a media release from Central Highlands Rural Health.