Professor John McCallum

National Seniors Australia

What 4,562 Seniors Told Us About Co-designing Aged Care and How Providers Can Use it.

Wednesday 12 October 2022

2:00pm – 2:30pm

Speaker Bio

Professor John McCallum has been National Seniors Australia’s Research Director since 2017 and CEO since 2018. Under his leadership, National Seniors has established a reputation for relevant, practical research into older Australians’ lives and sentiments. Professor McCallum joined National Seniors as a widely published academic leader in ageing and aged care research. He held teaching and research roles at numerous universities in Australia, USA, Japan, China and Thailand, with senior management roles at Victoria University, the NHMRC Research Translation Group, the NHMRC National Institute for Dementia Research, and the University of Western Sydney, receiving the Campbelltown Council Community Service Award while there. His major projects included the Dubbo Longitudinal Study of Ageing, Australia-Japan Collaboration in Aged Care, Asset and Health Dynamics of the ‘Old’ Old (AHEAD), and Vietnam Veterans Mortality Study. He received the Centenary Medal in 2001 ‘for outstanding service as a researcher to ageing and aged care issues.’


A keystone of consumer-centricity in aged care is co-designing service delivery with consumers. This presentation will discuss National Seniors Australia’s recent research into older Australians’ thoughts on co-design, their ideals for what residential aged care should be, and their communication needs when accessing care. A practical output for providers is a comprehensive 15-point checklist of the features consumers want to know about when choosing a residential care facility.

The Royal Commission recommended that for service delivery research and innovation, priority be given to co-designing with older people. Responding to this, in February 2021 advocacy organisation National Seniors Australia asked thousands of Australians aged 50 and over to describe what ‘co-design’ means to them. Responses came from 4562 seniors, and while some were uncertain or cynical about co-design, respondents were overwhelmingly in favour of older people co-designing aged care. Collectively, they want opportunities for older people to co-design every aspect, from meals to staffing to buildings to policies and everything in between. They are wary of tokenism in consultation activities but have so little input at present that any measures to include their views would be an improvement.

As a first step towards co-designing residential aged care, National Seniors conducted an open-comment-based survey with over 600 seniors. It first asked how residential care could change to become a more desirable option. Among the hundreds of answers written, the overarching theme was ‘as close to home as possible’, enabling people to continue their lives as they lived them before entering care. The research team identified 12 domains for action including diverse housing models, flexible and home-like living quarters, services (and food) tailored to diverse residents, more appropriate activities, greater management accountability, and improved staff numbers, pay and conditions.

The follow-up survey also asked what type of guidance, assistance and information should be available to people needing residential care. Respondents said they want guidance for navigating the system, professional services to protect their welfare, public communication to encourage aged care planning, employment of effective strategies for communicating with older Australians, and detailed information about specific residential facilities. On this last point, comments collectively mentioned hundreds of aspects of residential facilities that people want to know about, which the research team grouped into 15 topics. National Seniors has produced a comprehensive checklist based on these 15 points that providers can use to guide their communications with prospective clients, putting consumers back at the centre.

Seniors want to co-design all aspects of aged care particularly 15 aspects when choosing a facility.