Working with Older People in Rural Communities

Enhance your understanding of rural-dwelling older people. Learn to support them in a variety of settings.

Unpack the myths around ageing with Dr Sean MacDermott, deputy director of the John Richards Centre for Rural Ageing Research. In this unique course, you'll learn how to better connect with older people in rural communities and improve their health and wellbeing.

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Date/sOpen for registration at any time (earliest commencement is 17 October 2022)
Time/sSelf-paced learning
Duration18 hours (6 weeks x 3 hours)
Prerequisite/sThere are no prerequisites for this course
CertificationCertificate of Participation
Fee/s$450.00 + GST

This short course will help you understand the lives of older people in regional and rural communities. Across six weeks, you’ll explore key issues and concerns for this fast-growing group, and you’ll learn how to support them at home, in aged care and in hospital.

Designed for healthcare workers and other professionals working in aged care, community care, clinics and hospitals, the six weekly classes will introduce you to evidence-based approaches to improve health outcomes for older people. By presenting the facts about ageing and dispelling myths about older people, the course will increase your confidence and competence when working with them.

Your learning activities are self-paced so you can study at a time that works for you. Your study commitment will be approximately three hours per week.

Using a cross-cultural lens, you’ll explore a variety of theories, interventions and practices that can help you better support older people and help meet their life goals. You’ll gain the skills to really understand and connect with this unique demographic.

The course is recommended for professionals from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines who work with older people, including professionals working in aged care, nursing, allied health, mental health and social work. These settings usually include various age groups and older adults can account for a significant proportion of clients. This course is also appropriate for people who are looking to start working with older people or who are looking to relocate to regional Australia. The course has been specially designed to equip you with the skills to effectively and compassionately support older people.

Learn at Australia’s only university with a truly regional footprint. We have 7 campuses spread across metropolitan, regional and rural Victoria. We understand these communities – because we live and work in them. La Trobe is also a leader in rural health, with our clinical, pre-clinical and health subjects ranked in the world’s top 200 .

Why learn about older people?

When students graduate from health and social service degrees, they often lack the knowledge and expertise to effectively work with older people (Webb, Chonody, Ranzijn, Bryan, & Owen, 2016).

With more than 1 in 5 people in regional Victoria aged 65 and over, there’s a growing need for health and social service workers to upskill in this critical area. The truth is that for many health professionals, no matter where you work in the health sector, you’ll probably work with older people.

To improve the quality of care for older people in our communities, various scholars – as well as the recent Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety – have stressed the importance of upgrading the skills, knowledge and capabilities of the existing workforce and providing them with comprehensive information on how to work with older people. This benefits both older people and those working with them: older people enjoy improved health and wellbeing, and those working with them gain the satisfaction of improved connections with clients and better outcomes from their services.

Course content

This course is designed to give you essential skills for working with older adults.

You’ll explore key issues for older people living in rural and regional communities and analyse global social policy issues and controversies relating to ageing. You’ll also gain an understanding of the current aged care service system – from home and community care through to residential care, including the hospital care system.

You’ll be challenged to dispel common stereotypes about older people, and you’ll be encouraged to develop new ways to interact with them. You’ll examine ageing from a variety of cultural perspectives and consider the challenges for older people and health practitioners in rural settings.

You’ll learn:

  • Week 1: Ageing in Australia. Understand the Australian context for ageing and explore what it means for health professionals.
  • Week 2: Theories of ageing. Explore the biological and psychosocial theories of ageing and apply them to health and human service practices.
  • Week 3: Culture and ageing. Understand how cultural diversity impacts on ageing and examine key considerations when working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander older adults.
  • Week 4: Discrimination and exclusion. Understand the types of discrimination faced by older people and explore how we can overcome them. Examine how a lifetime of discrimination affects wellbeing in later life.
  • Week 5: Loneliness. Understand the causes and consequences of isolation and loneliness among older people. Explore some key interventions that can help reduce isolation.
  • Week 6: Mental health. Understand the mental health concerns of older people, including mental disorders, psychological distress, suicide and dementia. Understand the assessment and diagnosis process and explore why older adults underutilise mental health services.

Your study experience

Your learning activities are self-paced so you can study at a time that works for you. Over the six weeks, you are encouraged to engage with our academics and other students through a range of materials and learning forums with further learning materials available for those that want to go beyond the core curriculum.

Your study commitment will be approximately three hours per week.

To receive a Certificate of Completion to submit towards your annual continuing professional development (CPD) hours, you will be required to meet activity and participation requirements.

About the teacher

Dr Sean MacDermott is an expert in rural health and ageing. He is deputy director of the John Richards Centre for Rural Ageing Research and is a senior lecturer in social work and social policy at the La Trobe Rural Health School.

Through his work, Dr MacDermott aims to close the ‘health gap’ between regional and metropolitan areas, particularly for older people. His research on topics such as end-of-life planning, palliative care, the health workforce, telehealth, and travel for healthcare aims to promote healthy ageing in our regional and rural communities.

With more than 20 years’ experience in the fields of health, social work and ageing, Dr MacDermott has postgraduate qualifications and expertise in health, social science, research and change management. He has worked with more than 30 health services and aged-care organisations across Australia and, immediately prior to joining La Trobe, was the national project manager for the National Rollout and Evaluation of the Dementia Care in Hospitals Program. In addition to his management roles in industry, he has been a lecturer at Monash University and Federation University, and a senior research fellow at RMIT.

Extra requirements

  1. Broadband internet access and an active email address that can be accessed at home during study periods.
  2. Students must have basic computer literacy skills (e.g. Word or other word processing software).

Further information

Contact La Trobe Executive and Professional Education:


T: 1300 135 045


This program is subject to minimum enrolment numbers. A refund will be provided if the program is cancelled.