COTA Queensland partnered with Moreton Bay Regional Council and other organisations on a number of initiatives between 2019 and 2022 to improve mental health and wellbeing outcomes for older people, their families and carergivers. These activities were supported by funding from Brisbane North PHN through the Australian Government’s PHN program.
In August 2019, COTA Queensland conducted a stakeholder workshop which resulted in the formation of an Older Persons Action Group. The Group comprised members from across the sector and older people with a lived experience of mental health (consumer, carer and suicide perspectives). The Group’s objectives were to prioritise and progress actions in Part B, Chapter 6 of Planning for Wellbeing (A regional plan for North Brisbane and Moreton Bay focusing on mental health, suicide prevention and alcohol and other drug treatment services 2018-2023) over a 12-month timeframe.
The following key priorities were identified by the Group and common across all chapters of the Planning for Wellbeing:
- Improve community knowledge of available information and resources,
- Increase GP awareness of available community supports and services,
- Actively engage older people in conversations that reduce stigma and
promote help-seeking behaviour,
- Support carers, particularly ageing carers, to sustain good mental health.
The Group recommended focusing on early intervention and prevention initiatives. The COVID-19 pandemic response highlighted the need for older people and carers to gain confidence using digital technologies to access services and supports online for maintaining their wellbeing, staying connected and adapting to changing circumstances.
In June 2020, the group developed a program logic model for a volunteer community peer navigator program and recommended piloting it through a GP practice on Bribie Island (Moreton Bay region) where approximately 40.6% of the population are aged 65 and over (ABS, 2016). They also recommended delivering a small community mental health awareness event in the region.
In October 2020, COTA Queensland partnered with Moreton Bay Regional Council and Wellways to deliver the “Well Connected: Our Wellbeing” event at the Caboolture hub, funded through the Queensland Mental Health Week community grants program. The event brought together local community members and organisations to share their lived experience, encourage conversations about mental health, participate in wellbeing activities and share information and resources about local supports and services.
In January 2021, COTA Queensland partnered with Moreton Bay Regional Council and older volunteers to co-design and pilot a volunteer community peer navigator program at the Bribie Island Library. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the program could not be piloted in a GP practice, as planned.
COTA Queensland formed a Steering Group with representatives from Brisbane North PHN, Moreton Bay Regional Council and an older person with lived experience of mental health (carer) to review the existing model and co-design a model for delivery in a library setting.
From April to June 2021, trained COTA Queensland volunteers delivered free, independent information sessions weekly in the library. The aim of the program was to empower older people, their families and carergivers to access relevant services and supports and gain confidence in using digital technologies to maintain their mental and social wellbeing and adapt to changing circumstances. Initial evaluation findings identified 3 key support needs: “health and wellbeing”; “digital skills and resources” and “social and community”. It was recommended that the pilot be extended, other partners be involved to engage diverse communities, and the program be independently evaluated.
In September 2021, the program trial, named “Live Well and Stay Connected” was extended to 3 additional libraries (Redcliffe, Caboolture and Strathpine), Caboolture Neighbourhood Centre and Burnie Brae with additional funding from the Brisbane North PHN to provide mental health, social isolation and loneliness support for older people impacted by COVID-19.
The program trial concluded in March 2022 and was evaluated by Campfire Co-op. An evaluation summary newsletter is available to download here.
See also further information about isolation, loneliness and mental health.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2016 Census QuickStats: Bribie Island. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://quickstats.censusdata.abs.gov.au/census_services/getproduct/census/2016/quickstat/313011363?opendocument