BlueCare research blueprints cooler aged care future

February 2, 2021

UnitingCare Queensland’s BlueCare is partnering with University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) and Griffith University to develop the first evidence-based heat adaptation plan for Queensland’s aged care sector.

The new ‘Green Infrastructure for Mitigating Heat Stress in Aged Care Facilities’ research project taking place at BlueCare’s Bli Bli and Caloundra residential aged care homes will investigate the extent to which planting heat load reducing shrubs and trees can benefit the health of aged care facility residents and workers, and use this information to support the aged care sector to respond to climate change mediated extreme heat events.

The project is supported by a $127,493 Strategic Adaptation Priorities Program grant from the Queensland Department of Environment and Science and will involve deploying smart technology at the Sunshine Coast pilot sites to record baseline heat loads, target areas for heat reduction and track improvements in greenery and heat stress over time. The project team will also conduct sector-wide workshops across the state to determine whether heat adaptation plans could benefit other aged care facilities.

Co-lead investigator Dr Tony Matthews of Griffith University said the study aims to reduce cases of heat related illness and deaths in aged care.

“Heatwaves have killed more Australians than fires, floods and all other natural disasters combined,” Dr Matthews said.

“Remarkably, very little attention has been paid to the role of urban greenery in reducing heat stress for seniors. This innovative new research with directly benefit some of our most vulnerable populations.”

Lead researcher and Professor of Urban Design and Town Planning at USC Claudia Baldwin said the project will help to prove and quantify the health benefits of planting more trees and green walls in residential aged care homes.

“If the world is becoming hotter because of climate change, we need to start planning now to figure out how to cool things down cost-effectively. And we need the evidence base to justify the investment in green infrastructure for the future.”

Judene Andrews, UnitingCare Queensland Manager Environmental Sustainability said the new research aligns with BlueCare’s mission to better the health and wellbeing of people across Queensland.

“BlueCare has a long and proud history of supporting the elderly in residential aged care, so it makes sense for us to partner in research that will support us and the sector to better respond to the threat of extreme heat events.

“We are hopeful this project will demonstrate return on investment for health that greening infrastructure provides so that our residential aged care facilities and others can prioritise more green space in future.”