Queensland University of Technology Creative Industries Associate Professor Evonne Miller says 25 – 50 percent of elderly people in aged care suffered depression. However she thinks the BallyCara retirement and aged living community in Redcliffe, Queensland appears to have discovered the secret to happiness with a far lower average rate of depression – 10 percent – amongst its residents.
In 2011 BallyCara introduced a program named SONA (Gaelic word for happiness) into its retirement and aged living community in Redcliffe. The aim of the program was to foster healthy and happy living amongst residents by acknowledging the crucial role human relationships played in their sense of contentment.
BallyCara CEO Marcus Riley says staff were encouraged to take time to chat, embrace and joke with residents. “We are not interested in simply providing physical care for our residents,” Mr Riley says. “We want our staff, residents and their relatives to be part of a family."
Over the past four years Prof Miller interviewed more than 100 BallyCara residents as part of her study Inside Aged Care; she found the majority of people living at BallyCara are genuinely happy and have much lower levels of depression than the average resident in an aged care home.
“BallyCara uses positive psychology to build strong relationships between residents, clients and staff and make life meaningful and enjoyable for the elderly,” she says.
She predicts baby-boomers, now aged 53 – 71, will pose a major challenge for aged care providers because they are much more demanding than pre-war seniors.
“With the number of baby-boomer residents set to rise, aged care homes and services need to place as much emphasis on mental health and building happiness as they do on physical health,” she says.
An exhibition capturing the essence of BallyCara resident’s daily lives can be seen at the Asia Pacific Design Library, State Library of Queensland. Living in Aged Care: A photographic exhibition of laughter, loss and leisure is an exhibition of photographs and poems produced by BallyCara residents and can be seen until February 28.