Our projects


Understanding our migrant aged care workforce to support healthier, safer futures for older Western Australians

Dr Catriona Stevens has been awarded a Forrest Prospect Fellowship from the Forrest Research Foundation to conduct research with the SAGE Lab into the migrant aged care workforce in Western Australia. This research project responds to the urgent need to develop evidenced-based recommendations to inform workforce practices to ensure the aged care workforce can deliver safe and high-quality care. A major and under-researched issue of relevance about the aged care workforce is its cultural and linguistic diversity, with almost forty per cent of aged care staff born overseas. In response to the lack of comprehensive research on workforce diversity issues, this research requires forging new pathways of knowledge, in particular the pressing need for comprehensive understanding of the experiences and perspectives of the workers themselves.

Using a qualitative grounded theory approach, this project prioritises the voices, experiences and perspectives of the workers themselves. Drawing on social sciences approaches to the study of cultural and linguistic diversity and migration, the project aims to develop a comprehensive framework to examine workforce issues to deliver evidence-based policy recommendations, including for COVID-safe futures. By applying a sociological and migration studies lens and qualitative methods, it will deliver an understanding of the personal perspectives of aged care workers from migrant backgrounds that is currently lacking in Australian scholarship and policy decision-making.


Evaluation of an Anti-Ageism Campaign in Rural and Remote Western Australia

The SAGE Lab is supporting an anti-ageism campaign in the Shire of Pingelly funded by the WA Department of Communities. The goal of the ageism campaign is to raise awareness about this issue and thereby prepare for the development of the Pingelly Virtual Village. This is a planned future collaboration between Pingelly Somerset Alliance and UWA (not yet funded) that will support older residents to remain in their own homes and their community as their care needs increase later in life.

Our team aims to support this rural community development project through an evaluation of the process and assisting with the facilitation of three half-day community workshops. We are doing this as part of the social justice objectives of the SAGE Lab, and also to develop new partnerships to deepen the collaboration between UWA and the Shire of Pingelly, which is also the site of the UWA Future Farm.


Research into the abuse of older people in Western Australia 

Knitted blanketWA Department of Communities has engaged the SAGE Lab to conduct qualitative and quantitate research into the prevalence, drivers and protective factors for elder abuse in Western Australia. In researching this project, the UWA SAGE Lab is working in collaboration with research partners from the UniSA School of Law and Northern Suburbs Community Legal Centre.

Key research objectives include mapping agency responses, service provision and referral pathways in Western Australia. This entails documenting current practice in the sector, while also working with research participants to co-design best practice recommendations to better respond to older people experiencing or at risk of abuse.

Beyond this core aim, the project also seeks to develop a clearer understanding of the unique experiences and needs of older people from marginal populations, including CaLD, LGBTIQA and people living in rural and remote Western Australia, who are known to have unique needs and experiences, and may be at greater risk of abuse.



UWA SPARK Staying Connected project 

Photos from the SPARK project

A major initiative of the SAGE Lab is to utilise and further develop the SPARK App, designed by social innovator, Dr Lukasz Krzyzowski. The app provides personalized and immediate help through building and maintaining social support networks of people lending a hand to each other.

  • The “Valued Neighbours” project in partnership with Befriend, WA Department of Communities; Information, Linkages and Capacity Building grant (2019-2020). 
  • UWA SPARK Staying Connected project: This project aim is to trial the SPARK App in the community to reduce isolation and loneliness and increase social inclusion by linking UWA students with retired UWA alumni. 

At a fundamental level, Spark is a solution-driven project built on the idea that it’s a mutual exchange of kindness that keeps the world going around and contributes to our sense of belonging as individuals and as a collective.

This project not only has excellent potential for translation and implementation of research findings into improved health policy and practice but also an immediate impact on the mental health and wellbeing of participants and their social networks.

The value of having access to a network of supportive relationships through on-line interaction can hardly be overestimated. The benefits are obvious: the risk of social isolation decreases as individual sense of well-being increases.

The Spark Project aims to: 

  • Collaborate with Partners to utilise the basic Spark App in their organisations to develop communities of practice through mutual help and exchange of skills and knowledge;
  • Provide training to support ongoing Spark usage as well as social network mapping to identify socially isolated older people, plan early interventions, and monitor and evaluate outcomes; 
  • Collaborate with Partners to develop the SPARK App through innovative project design to accommodate the specific needs of communities and institutions through the person-centred approach of social technology development; 
  • Organize a series of ‘social innovation hackathons’ for further development of Spark towards an integrated system supporting social care.

Digital Learning Projects

Digital Literacy projectA major initiative of the UWA Social Care and Ageing Living Lab will be to build on findings from the ARC Ageing and New Media Project (led by Baldassar and Wilding) to deliver digital literacy training to older people. Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan has characterised the social and economic consequences of the relative disadvantage experienced by older Australians in using the Internet as a form of age discrimination. The Australian Human Rights Commission has identified that older people’s lack of digital citizenship limits their ‘full inclusion’ in accessing information and in making independent decisions about their lives. Digital citizenship is particularly important to sustaining distant support networks, which are critical to migrant wellbeing. This project aims to: 

  • Collaborate with Partners to deliver Digital Literacy projects in their organisations to increase the digital citizenship of older people and their carers;
  • Provide training to support ongoing digital citizenship as well as social network mapping to identify socially isolated older people and monitor and evaluate outcomes; 
  • Collaborate with Partners to develop new digital literacy initiatives through innovative project design to accommodate the specific needs of communities and institutions through the person-centred approach of social innovation. 


  • Digital Literacy Project, City of Wanneroo, in partnership with the Cities of Stirling and Joondalup (funded by the Department of Communities; Age-friendly Communities Social Connectivity Grants), 2021.
  • Let's Get Social, Umbrella Multicultural Community Care (funded by the Department of Communities; Age-friendly Communities Social Connectivity Grants), 2020-2021.
  • Stories and Skills across the Generations Project, Belmont City Council (funded  by the Department of Communities), completed 2018. Download the Final Report and watch the video.
  • Life Stories and Digital Learning Project, MyVista, Stirling Ethnic Aged Homes Association, funded by the Office of Multicultural Interests and Lotterywest, March – June 2019. Fore more information, see our short video or long video.


Heart Foundation: Healthy Active Ageing (Rapid Evidence Review)

Physical activity and being active is of great benefit for health at all stages of life. As our body ages, regular physical activity helps reduce the risk of heart disease. It can also prevent and manage many chronic conditions and diseases including high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and some cancers. 

This rapid evidence review has been conducted by Prof Loretta Baldassar and Dr Marian Atkins from the Social Care and Social Ageing Living Lab, at the University of Western Australia. The review draws on the latest research and policy from the medical and social sciences, the World Health Organisation (WHO), international case studies and interviews with Heart Foundation staff. It includes a focus on Australian contexts and supports Sport Australia’s aim to encourage Australians over the age of 65 years to become more physically active.

Healthy Active Ageing (Healthy Active by Design) understands that ageing occurs across the life-course and requires a holistic whole of life course approach. It highlights the critical importance of physical activity for the health and wellbeing of older people, but also emphasises the importance of social engagement in providing the motivation to maintain healthy levels of physical activity. Finally it identifies key design features needed to facilitate both the physical activity and social engagement required to support the highest possible quality of life for older people. Download the Final Report.



Working with local aged care service providers and community organisations, the Genie WA project will adapt and trial Genie in Perth.

Genie is an online platform that makes it easier to find and connect to local health and wellbeing activities and organisations. Genie has been developed by social workers at the University of Southampton in the UK and is currently used successfully in the UK and Canada. The aim of this project is to make it available in Australia. 

The Genie tool facilitates structured conversation focused on understanding and activating people's networks and eliciting their preferences. It is built around a theory of change that is focused on user preferences (rather than externally defined need), collective efficacy (acceptable, not just available support) and practice (as interrelated sets of capabilities, materials, justifications). In this way it is compatible with, but different from, approaches that focus on individuals, their motivation, self-efficacy, and behaviours.

Genie helps alleviate social isolation and loneliness by focusing on people’s ability to connect with others and increasing and sustaining their social and community support networks. The platform encourages people to stay active in the community and to choose active ageing options, which will increase self-esteem and the sense of social belonging.


Successful planning for age-friendly communities in Western Australia

Western Australia is a national leader in using the WHO Age-friendly Cities and Communities approach to support bottom-up community consultation in planning at the local government level. Success in adopting the age-friendly approach in WA is due to State Government support, including funding through the Department of Local Government and Communities’ Age-friendly Communities Local Government Grants Program, and the resultant unique partnership between State and local government.

In 2017, researchers from the SAGE Lab were engaged to conduct an evaluation of the Grants Program, which at the time had provided funding 70 of the 139 local governments in Western Australia over five funding rounds across a ten year period. The evaluation report highlighted the strong sector engagement with the age-friendly approach, noting that in no other Australian jurisdiction have so many local government areas applied the age-friendly lens to their strategic community planning. The formal recognition of the Government of Western Australia as an affiliate member of the WHO GNAFCC is a strong endorsement of its successful planning for age-friendly communities in the State.

The report further noted four emerging areas that are critical to the evolution of the age-friendly approach in Western Australia: Measurable success and continual improvement; Diverse seniors and tailored solutions; Ageism, public communications strategies and normalising age-friendly language; and Digital citizenship among seniors and an age-friendly future. Download the Final Report.