Page 1004 - Week 03 - Thursday, 10 April 2014

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Again, I encourage all of my Assembly colleagues to get down and watch some of our great young players.

Aged care—pets

MS PORTER (Ginninderra) (4.54): Members may remember that in May 2012 I hosted a community forum here in the ACT Legislative Assembly entitled “Conversations on pets in aged care”. The forum was intended to initiate a community discussion about the role pets play in the lives of older Canberrans and was attended by numerous aged care professionals, animal welfare agencies and pet owners. The main address was delivered by Dr Bronwyn Massavelli, a psychologist from the University of Queensland, and Ms Lynn Fitzpatrick, both of whom have immense experience in this area.

As the discussion unfolded, it became clear there was a recognition of the significant benefits pet ownership has for older people and there should be greater support to allow older Australians to continue living with their pets in aged care accommodation and when ageing at home. Also identified were some notable concerns, including the design of retirement villages and nursing homes, as most are currently unsuitable for this arrangement; additional work and training for staff who may have to assist pet owners as well as a pet; other residents who may be uncomfortable with animals; and the importance of ensuring that the interests of the person and pets are balanced.

As a result, it was decided that a steering group be formed to work through some of these challenges as well as identify opportunities that the group can pursue. This was a significant step forward.

I can report the pets in aged care steering committee was later formed and has been busy making available information to seniors about where to obtain assistance to care for pets as they age, themselves as well as their animals; how to identify villages that accept pets; identify organisations that provide assistance to older pet owners; encourage further research into the benefits that pets provide to us as we age; encourage designers and architects, in looking at retirement villages, to make allowances for pets and also to be able to refurbish existing facilities; work with the RSPCA in relation to their already-established seniors for seniors program; and explore the possibility of volunteer programs to support people ageing at home to care for their pets.

Just last month they held a forum in ACT COTA’s facility in Hughes where a large number of people came to discuss caring for pets whilst ageing at home. And later this year they will be holding another forum where they will have an expert come to discuss the various aspects of grief when you are actually parted from your animal or when your animal dies. Of course, this is a very important aspect of older people having pets.

I can also report that as of 28 March this year the group has become incorporated and is now officially known as Pets and Positive Ageing Inc. I take this opportunity to congratulate all members of the inaugural committee: Jan Phillips, Di Johnstone, John

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