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Lifetime Achievement Award for positive living expert

Jennie Hewitt has been described as a compassionate soul, expert health professional and diligent researcher.

“National lifetime achievement award winner” can now be added to the list.

Ms Hewitt, who has been a Positive Living Co-ordinator at Feros Care’s Wommin Bay residential village since early 2015, received the 2018 ACSA Lifetime of Achievement honour at its awards ceremony in Sydney on Wednesday (Sep 5).

“It feels surreal to have been honoured with a lifetime achievement award, especially as such awards have never been my motivation for doing what I do,” she said of being recognised by Aged & Community Services Australia.

“Rather it is the inspiration of the wonderful older adults we care for that has driven me to strive for change.

I am so fortunate to have a job that allows me to work with so many inspiring people, whether they are my passionate colleagues at Feros Care or the amazing residents in our villages.

Ms Hewitt has worked with seniors as a physiotherapist since 1989 and in the aged care sector specifically since 2008. She completed her PhD through the University of Sydney in July after conducting a first-of-its-kind clinical trial to test the effect of an evidence-based strength and balance program on falls and quality of life in residential aged care, including a critical cost-benefit analysis. 
The ‘Sunbeam Trial’, which as since been internationally published, included 16 aged care facilities and 221 residents with an average age of 87 years, up to 101 years.

The groundbreaking results showed a 55 per cent reduction in falls for participants – the most positive outcome of any similar trial to date.

Ms Hewitt joined Feros Care in January 2015 and has been responsible for mentoring and co-ordinating the positive living teams and volunteers at its residential villages in Bangalow, Wommin Bay and Byron Bay. 

During that time, she has developed and implemented a range of highly innovative and evidence-based wellbeing programs that have improved residents’ quality of life; while also supervising physiotherapy students from the University of Sydney on clinical placements in Tweed Valley.
Feros Care CEO Jennene Buckley said: “Jennie epitomises everything we want in our staff.

“As those who nominated her rightly highlighted, she is an excellent scholar and diligent research, has a compassionate heart and caring soul, and is passionate about giving hope to the old and frail.”
Driven by her determination to challenge the way therapy is funded by government in residential care, Ms Hewitt has presented the results of the Sunbeam trial to the Minister for Aged Care (Hon Ken Wyatt) and shared findings with the working party currently reviewing aged care funding. 

The work is now being used to inform policy makers of new effective therapies for this group. 
Inspired by the success of the program, Feros Care has expanded the clinical exercise therapy to its other
ACSA CEO Pat Sparrow said the awards were recognition at the highest level for work in the community that mad a real difference in people’s lives.
“These individual contributions set a standard for all of us in their example and in turn remind and teach us about the potential all care-givers have to positively affect the lives of those around them,” she said.

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