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By Professor Yvonne Wells MAPS
National Executive Committee, APS Psychology and Ageing Interest Group

The Psychology and Ageing Interest (PAIG) group is one of several that operate within the structure of the Australian Psychological Society. It is dedicated to furthering knowledge, research, teaching and learning initiatives, and public policy relating to older adults in Australia. Under the leadership of its National Convenor, currently Associate Professor Nancy Pachana, it acts as a mechanism for psychologists all over Australia to stay linked with colleagues who share similar interests.

The PAIG is one of the most dynamic Interest Groups within the APS. The PAIG is active at National APS Conferences, and regularly organises symposia and papers of interest to researchers and practitioners as well as those involved in the teaching and supervision of psychologists. It encourages psychology students to maintain an interest in ageing through two awards: the Ed Helmes Travel Award, which assists student members to attend national or international conferences; and the Elsie Harwood Award, which has been awarded annually since 2002 for the best theoretical essay or empirical research project in the field of ageing, submitted as part of an accredited fourth year program or Masters by coursework program in psychology.

In November 2007, the PAIG successfully staged its second biennial National Psychology and Ageing Interest Group Conference, held over three days at the Deakin Management Centre in Geelong. Discussion took place on a range of issues including various strategies for improving and increasing clinical training to work with older adults, and with key industry stakeholders on how to increase clinical placements for students in aged care settings. In November 2009, plans are underway to join with the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists Faculty of Psychiatry of Old Age to host a joint ageing conference on the Gold Coast in Queensland.

The Interest Group energetically promotes the various roles that psychologists can play in supporting the wellbeing of older people. For example, in 2000, as a contribution to the 1999 International Year of Older Persons, the group wrote a position paper for the APS on the role of psychologists in healthy ageing (Browning et al., 2000; Gething et al., 2003), and in 2006, it followed this up with an article and fact sheet on the provision of clinical psychological services to older people (Koder, Helmes, & Pachana, 2008; Pachana, Helmes, & Koder, 2006). The Interest Group also publishes an annual newsletter and maintains an email listserv.

At a State level, the PAIG brings together psychologists with an interest in ageing through regular meetings, presentations and informal dinners. The State bodies serve as a source of information on ageing issues for local professionals and the wider community.

The APS currently has around 16,500 members nation-wide (APS, 2008), including all grades of membership and affiliates. PAIG, with 310 members representing 1.8 per cent of the APS membership (APS, 2008), is one of the larger Interest Groups in the APS. (The mean size of Interest Groups in 2008 was 211 and the median was 161.) The Psychology and Ageing Interest Group has been growing steadily since 2001. This is an encouraging sign, and presumably reflects mounting interest in working with older adults in both community and residential care settings. The PAIG looks forward to a strong and vigorous future.

While membership of the PAIG is not compulsory in order to attend meetings or access the other resources mentioned here, the benefits of joining include being provided via email with up-to-date details on local and national meetings and events and with news on research on ageing and related topics. Membership forms are available on the APS website (www.groups.psychology.org.au/igs/). Alternatively, details on how to contact the National and State Convenors can be found on the PAIG webpage (www.groups.psychology.org.au/paig/).


APS (2008). Annual Report. Melbourne: Author.

Browning, C., Gething, L., Gridley, H., Helmes, E., Luszcz, M., Turner, J., et al. (2000). Psychology and ageing: contributions to the international year of older persons. APS Position Paper.

Gething, L., Gridley, H., Browning, C., Helmes, E., Luszcz, M., Turner, J., et al. (2003). The role of psychologists in fostering the wellbeing of older Australians. Australian Psychologist, 38, 1-10.

Koder, D., Helmes, E., & Pachana, N. (2008). Clinical psychologists meeting the needs of older adults in Australia. Accessed 14 November 2008 from http://www.groups.psychology.org.au/paig/resources/

Pachana, N., Helmes, E., & Koder, D. (2006). Guidelines for the provision of psychological services for older adults. Australian Psychologist, 41, 15-22.