Community co-design of digital interventions for primary prevention of ageism and elder abuse

The OPERA project: Older People Equity Respect and Ageing
Age discrimination Co-design Elder abuse Program evaluation Family violence Primary prevention Victoria

The project ‘Older People: Equity, Respect & Ageing’ (OPERA) focusses on understanding firstly, how ageism is perceived and experienced by older people in the Eastern Metropolitan region (EMR) and secondly, how that evidence can be used to frame a co-designed digital intervention into community experiences of ageism in the EMR. The assumption underlying this project was that ageism and ageist behaviours are drivers of elder abuse – this project evaluates a methodology for disrupting ageist assumptions and behaviours as one part of a primary prevention strategy.

The OPERA project was divided into two phases; firstly, Phase I completed community consultation about experiences of ageism among older people in the EMR. The findings from Phase I were subsequently used to inform Phase II, the co-design & development of a digital intervention (digital storytelling videos) led by Swinburne University.

The issue of elder abuse is becoming more prominent in Australia with both state and federal governments highlighting the need for prevention and response interventions. However, compared to other forms of family violence, elder abuse is not well understood by the general public, and continues to be underreported in Australia. Similarly, while there is a growing understanding and acceptance of elder abuse as a form of family violence, successful primary prevention strategies are lacking in many parts of the service sector.

The major issues facing policy makers, advocates and service providers engaged in this space are firstly, the dearth of publicly available evidence about drivers of elder abuse, and secondly, the lack of evaluated primary prevention strategies.

Evaluation key findings:

  • Community co-design and digital storytelling are successful methodologies for development of primary prevention interventions at the local level;
  • Co-design methodologies were successful in this context because they were responsive to the key demographic (older people in the EMR); this method gave agency to older people’s voices in construction of primary prevention strategies and directly represented their perceptions and experiences;
  • The co-design methodologies indicated that existing representation of ageism and elder abuse did not resonate with participants because they perceived older people were characterised as victims, and as frail, unhappy and lacking independence or social connection.


  • Co-design methodologies should be utilised as part of local and State-wide primary prevention strategies for elder abuse to best represent the issues, perceptions and experiences of older people in the community;
  • Development of communication strategies around primary prevention of elder abuse and/or ageism should not focus on negative representations of older ‘victims’ of abuse;
  • Development of strategies around primary prevention of elder abuse and/ or ageism should focus on disrupting ageist assumptions by framing ageing as a positive experience and representing older people as active, positive and socially connected.


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