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Students to live in aged-care home in uni housing trial

“There are similar sorts of schemes in Holland, Germany, and the United States, but nothing specifically like this, and to my knowledge I think we’re the only university in Australia doing anything like it.”

Under the scheme, the students would live in the decommissioned wing of the aged-care home, which have perfectly livable facilities but are no longer up to aged-care standards.

They would be on significantly reduced rent, and as a trade-off would be expected to do volunteer work with the aged care residents.

“They will be required to interact on a social basis with residents – there’s no need for them to be involved in the medical side of things,” Mr Young said.

“They’re purely there to, for example, have meals with residents, chat to the residents about their day, play a game of scrabble and just generally interact with the residents.”

Cooinda chief executive Robyn Kross, who has a background in nursing, said she was excited about the potential outcomes of the trial program.

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“For our residents, it’s that socialisation aspect that will add another element to their lifestyle and maybe take their mind off aches and pains or age-related loneliness,” Ms Kross said.

In addition to the residential program, the university will run a clinical study to see whether that socialisation has any measurable effect on residents at the centre.

The initial trail will involve just six students, which Mr Young said would be sourced from the nursing program at USC Gympie, because they would be wanting to live locally and the volunteer work would look good on their resumes.

“One of the problems, and I know this because my son has just graduated with a nursing degree, is that you apply for jobs and they want experience,” he said.

“Well unless you give them experience they can’t get experience. So anything that can give students an edge is a good thing.”

The trial will be limited to six places for the time being, and Mr Young said they didn’t want to expand beyond that initially because they didn’t want to throw the ratio of students to residents off.

However, in the future they could look to expand it and he’s encouraging other universities to investigate whether they could do the same.

“Something like this needs to be very carefully planned and you need all parties to be on the same page, but if you can do that then certainly, it’s a wonderful initiative,” he said.

Stuart Layt covers health, science and technology for the Brisbane Times. He was formerly the Queensland political reporter for AAP.

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