2022 RM Gibson Program Recipients

AAG would like to congratulate the following individuals on their successful applications for the 2022 RM Gibson Program:

Dr Ruth Brookman
The MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development, Western Sydney University

Dr Ruth Brookman is a Research Support Program Fellow at the MARCS Institute of Brain, Behaviour and Development at Western Sydney University. She has trained as a Speech Pathologist and Clinical Psychologist. Her clinical experience and research interests cover the lifespan, including social interactions, healthy ageing, mental health, and dementia care.


Project: The effects of a multi-modal biking experience on wellbeing for people with and without dementia in residential aged care.

Award: $6,670

Project summary: An ageing global population together with an increased number of people with dementia (PWD) have highlighted the need for programs in residential care settings that promote the health and wellbeing, in ways that support residents’ identity, personhood, and connection to others. We aim to evaluate a 26-day Motiview challenge program, which incorporates specially adapted exercise bikes (physical exercise) with immersive audiovisual technology (reminiscing), and increased social interaction between residents who compete internationally as part of a team.

In collaboration with Harbison (see Attachment 4) we will examine mechanisms underlying the benefits and barriers associated with program participation for people with and without dementia. We distinguish: (1) cognitive benefits, via reminisence therapy and virtual memory trips through familiar routes and childhood memories; (2) physical benefits via bike riding exercises; and (3) social benefits, through group events, competition, and shared goals.

To our knowledge, there has been no prior research examining the combined benefits of a program that integrates physical exercise, cognitive engagement, reminiscing, and social connection. We aim to evaluate the impact of participation using pre- and post-intervention measures of physical health measures (e.g., weight and blood pressure). We examine mood, social engagement and autobiographical memory through micro-analysis of audio and visual recordings taken at the beginning, middle and end of the intervention.

This novel approach contextualises an exercise intervention into a broader suite of activities. Examining the mechanisms for any benefits of this wholistic approach to wellbeing will assist with further development of effective interventions and activity options for PWD.

Dr Heidi Gilchrist
Institute for Musculoskeletal Health/University of Sydney

Dr Heidi Gilchrist is a physiotherapist and early career researcher and works as a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Physical Activity, Ageing and Disability Research Stream at the Institute for Musculoskeletal Health, a partnership between the University of Sydney and Sydney Local Health District. She is involved in qualitative and mixed methods research which focuses on how and why health consumers and professionals engage with physical activity opportunities, including intervention trials. She is currently working on a process evaluation of the SAGE yoga trial, a randomised controlled trial investigating the effect of yoga on falls among 700 participants aged 60+.

Project: Is dance exercise in disguise? An impact evaluation of the RIPE dance program targeting fall prevention and wellbeing.

Award: $6,900

Project summary:Regular physical activity has a positive impact on physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. Physical activity with a focus on balance and strength also has the potential to reduce falls for people aged 60+ years, a major cause of injury and death in this age group. Exercise programs have been designed for older people to address this; however, such programs often have low

Dancing is a type of physical activity popular with older people. Dance has positive effects on physical function and emotional and mental wellbeing, and tailored dance classes with a specific focus on balance may also help reduce falls. RIPE Dance (Really Is Possible for Everyone) provides popular, long running dance programs for over 100 older people with an evidence -based fall
prevention focus. The successful way RIPE Dance programs have engaged older people over 10 years may have broader implications, so warrants further investigation.

Study aims are:
1. Describe the characteristics of RIPE Dance program participants, including those
associated with long standing or more frequent attendance
2. Investigate the perceived impact of RIPE Dance programs for participants
3. Understand which features of the RIPE Dance program contribute to participants
attending and sustaining that attendance

The RM Gibson grant will enable us to conduct a survey and interviews to explore older people’s experiences of RIPE Dance, to understand how and why older people engage with these classes. The results will be used to develop future innovative dance-based programs with a focus on falls, that appeal to older people.

Awarded in partnership with Dementia Australia Research Foundation (DARF)

Naomi Folder
University of Technology Sydney, Graduate School of Health

Naomi Folder is a PhD candidate in the Graduate School of Health at University of Technology Sydney, and works as a speech pathologist in the Illawarra health district. With her research team across University of Technology Sydney and University of Sydney, Naomi is working to modify an existing communication partner training program for traumatic brain injury, “TBI Connect”, and tailor this program to dementia through co-creation with people living with dementia and their families. She is a passionate advocate for communication intervention and support for all people living with dementia, and for the important role of speech pathology in improving social connection, conversation, and quality of life.

Project: Dementia Connect: Adaptation and Co-Creation of a Communication Partner Training Program for Families of People with Dementia

Award: $6,942

Project summary: 
Communication impairments are the most challenging symptom for families of people with dementia, linked to depression, distress, expressions of unmet needs, and reduced quality of life (Braun et al., 2010). The Clinical Practice Guidelines for People with Dementia (NHMRC, 2016) recommend families have access to evidence-based communication partner training (CPT) programs. However, current CPT programs do not meet this criterion, either being inaccessible to consumers or have limited evidence behind their use (Nguyen et al., 2018; Morris et al., 2018).Families need accessible and evidence-based CPT to improve daily conversations and address these negative outcomes. Our research question is: can an existing CPT program for people with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), be adapted to dementia? We aim to co-create a CPT program with people with dementia, families, health professionals, and other stakeholders, through adaptation of an existing and evidence-based CPT program 'TBI Connect' (Togher et al., 2013; Rietdijk et al., 2020; Behn et al., 2021). Given the many overlaps in communication strategies recommended for dementia and TBI (O'Rourke et al., 2018), using a high-quality example of an existing CPT program for TBI provides an initial reference point to support co-creation of a dementia-specific resource. Stakeholders will be interviewed on their communication experiences, and what they need from a CPT program. They will then evaluate 'TBI Connect' and collaborate as joint decision makers on required changes and modifications. The end-product will be 'Dementia Connect', a co-created CPT program for families of people with dementia.