Healthy ageing

The impact of global ageing has significant implications for health, society, the economy and policy. HIRC researchers bring a multidisciplinary focus to research related to age and dementia care, promoting the health and wellbeing of an ageing society, advocacy for change and contribute to enriching the lives of older adults and family carers. HIRC members partner with clinicians, health services, community care providers, industry and university partners to conduct high-quality research that is focused on current clinical issues and health priorities of older people and family carers. The impact of their research informs innovation and redesign of models of care across local, national and international settings.  

Examples of current projects being undertaken by some of the theme members can be found at Aged Dementia Health Education and Research (ADHERe) website. Other selected projects are listed below

Theme leader: Dr. Rita Chang (School of Nursing)



  • Nutrition, cognition and ageing:
    There is currently intense interest in the potential of phytochemical-rich foods to prevent age-related cognitive decline. Promising evidence is emerging, mostly from animal studies, that anthocyanins - the bioactive components that are concentrated in dark red and blue fruits such as berries and stone fruits - have the potential to benefit cognitive performance and physical functioning. Professor Karen Charlton leads a team that has conducted a range of studies investigating the impact of consuming these foods on cognitive function in older adults with dementia and Mild Cognitive Impairment. The team includes Dr Katrina Green (neuroscientist), Dr Susan Thomas, Prof Karen Walton and Associate Professors Steven Roodenrys and Vida Bliokas (School of Psychology) and PhD student Naomi May alongside collaborators from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, ISLHD, and industry partners Nutrafruit.
  • Food for thought: Preventing decline and improving cognition through diet and dietary advice in older people at risk                                                
    A World-Class Dementia Collaborative Research Centre grant was awarded to the team for 2021-23. 
    Aims: To conduct a multi-centre 12 month randomised, blinded, parallel arm clinical trial to identify:
    (1) the ability of dietary anthocyanins to prevent progressive loss of cognitive capacity and memory in older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI);
    (2) the mechanisms by which anthocyanins exert their beneficial effects;
    (3) whether lasting changes are evident 6 months after completion of the intervention.
  • Overcoming feeding challenges for older persons living in Residential Aged Care facilities
  • National Meals Guidelines for Meals on Wheels
    Professor Karen Walton has been leading work to develop and evaluate uptake of Australia’s first national meal guidelines for the Australian Meals on Wheels Association (AMOWA). Funding was obtained from the Australian Government Department of Social Services (now the Department of Health) to develop these guidelines. The UOW team comprised Prof Karen Walton, Senior Prof Linda Tapsell, Prof Karen Charlton and Dr Anne McMahon as well as external consultant Dr Peter Williams. The final product (Australian Meals on Wheels Association (2016) National Meal Guidelines: A Guide for Service Providers, Caterers and Health Professionals Providing Home Delivered and Centre Based Meal Programs for Older Australians) is available online.
  • A novel approach to understand and improve the nutritional well-being and health of older people living in Residential Aged Care Facilities in Australia: The MEALS project
    Dr Rita Chang has been leading MEALs project which involves hospitals, residential aged care facilities (RACFs) and academics from international universities (The University of New England; Taipei Medical University, The University of Queensland, The University of Waterloo and the University of Worcester).
    This is a knowledge translation project so the team will work closely with RACFs to ensure the intervention is integrated into usual education activities. This will increase sustainability and further translation. An ‘Implementation Toolkit’ will be hosted on our website to promote dissemination. The MEALS model will improve the nutritional well-being and health of older people in a cost-effective way that can be replicated nationally and internationally.
    The project aims are to:

    1. Develop the evidence-based novel MEALS model of care that is fit for purpose in RACFs and can be implemented into everyday practice.
    2. Implement and test the effectiveness of the comprehensive MEALS model to change knowledge, attitudes and skills in assisting feeding difficulties and nutrition needs among staff in RACFs and improve the nutritional well-being of older people living in RACFs.
    3. Evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the MEALS model from a health service perspective.

    The project team will conduct a multicentre trial with 204 carers (34 in each of the six trial centres). The locations are Adelaide, Beijing, Xi’an, Taipei, Hong Kong, and Macau. The intervention will last 6 months, and the outcomes will be measured at baseline, 6 months and 9 months post-initiation of intervention.
  • Strengthening professional collaboration in dementia caregiver education and research via the provision and evaluation of the iSupport program in Australia and Greater China
    Funding source: 2021-2022 National Foundation for Australia-China Relations, Australian Government
    Dr Rita Chang is one of CIs in this funded project which involves Flinders University, University of Wollongong, The University of New South Wales, National Ageing Research Institute, universities from Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. This project will showcase Australia’s excellence in dementia care and research in Greater China by developing, offering and evaluating a Chinese iSupport program. Eleven million people live with dementia and 40 million family carers are involved in their care in Greater China. Chinese-Australians are the largest overseas-born group in Australia. The program will reach many carers and improve health and wellbeing for them and for people with dementia in Australia and Greater China.
    Research activities in the project:
    1. The project team will conduct consultations with carers and service providers to co-design implementation strategies and modify the generic web-based Chinese iSupport version developed by Peking University for each study site.
    2. Researchers in each study site will finalise the program and arrange secure web hosting.
    3. The project team will jointly provide an online training program to program facilitators and researchers respectively to standardise the implementation and evaluation of the iSupport.
    4. The project team will conduct a multicentre trial with 204 carers (34 in each of the six trial centres). The locations are: Adelaide, Beijing, Xi’an, Taipei, Hong Kong, and Macau. The intervention will last 6 months, and the outcomes will be measured at baseline, 6 months and 9 months post-initiation of intervention.