Young leaders are everywhere in the age services industry. Who knew? In the last 12 months we’ve seen a shift towards recognising and celebrating young leaders. It turns out we’re contributing in areas which most of us in more traditional care-based roles didn’t even realise. This has been the beauty of the LASA Next Gen initiative.


On Aged Care Employee Day 2020, I was extremely honoured to be named the winner of LASA Next Gen Leader Award for NSW/ACT. It was fitting that the award was presented on this day, as I felt like the award should have been awarded to our entire allied health team, rather than just me.


I’ve been asked to reflect on what I think it means to be a leader in age services. I think I’m still trying to work this out myself. I’ve certainly been inspired by your typical high-profile business leaders like Simon Sinek, Richard Branson and Steve Jobs. Simon taught me to focus on the ‘why’, and make sure that our team is working towards a common vision. Richard’s lesson was to take care for our staff, whilst they look after our clients. And then of course, Steve highlighted that I shouldn’t hire smart people and then try to tell them what to do. All very good lessons.


If I had to think of what my quote might be, and what defines me as a leader, I think it would be something about creativity. Residential aged care in particular, at least during my career, has always thrown up challenges. Homes have typically been under funded and under resourced. Creativity has allowed me to identify problems and take a solution focused mindset. As a physiotherapist, it has allowed me to overcome challenges and hopefully achieve better outcomes for residents. As a business owner, it has allowed me to identify opportunities to create points of difference.


My Excellence in Age Services Awards submission celebrated one creative idea in particular. COVID-19 is certainly our industry’s most significant and current challenge. Back in March, our team identified that this disease was going to cause some significant changes to how homes would operate. We feared that whilst decisions were made to protect residents from the virus, the secondary effects of these decisions – such as reduced activity and social isolation – would also have the potential to cause significant harm.


To combat inactivity, we created a video series for carers, which provided them with basic training on how to deliver one-on-one exercise sessions in residents’ rooms. Each day, carers could watch a new training video which gave them ideas on how to maintain things like lower limb and upper limb strength, mobility and balance. We also created individual handouts to match the workouts. We called this program the ‘Get Up Guide’ and made all of these resources available for free on our website.


To reduce social isolation, we launched weekly ‘Get Up Challenges’, where residents from around Australia could challenge each other to complete things like 30 seconds of sit to stands or wall push ups. We then ran weekly live exercise sessions via Zoom, where we’d celebrate our challengers’ achievements and spend about 45 minutes exercising and having fun.


Across a 10-week period, our resources were downloaded more than 1600 times and we had residents join our live sessions from four states.


Sometimes the best ideas and opportunities come from being challenged, especially if you think creatively. Due to the success of the initiative, we’re going to continue to deliver services and create programs using our ‘Get Up Guide’ model as inspiration.


I think a common desire for all leaders is to create an impact; this is certainly the case for me. It can be very difficult to create an impact as an individual. In the case of our ‘Get Up Guide’, it would never have worked without the support of our allied health staff and our partner organisations. As an industry, the more we connect, share ideas and inspire each other, the better age services will become. I think that’s what being a leader is all about.


Simon Kerrigan is a Finalist for the National LASA Next Gen Young Leader Award, an innovative physiotherapist, the Managing Director at Guide Healthcare, and LASA Next Gen Ambassador.