School of Population Health

Contemporary Issues in Ageing (PHCM9617)

PHCM9617 course image


The demographic ageing of populations worldwide is accelerating, with significant implications for individuals and society. Current public health approaches have failed to adequately meet the challenges associated with population ageing, and a comprehensive global public health response is required to transform systems to better meet population needs. This course presents students with the public health framework for action on ageing and health promoted by the World Health Organization. Students will be challenged to consider: ways in which healthy ageing can be fostered; how health care systems can be better aligned to the care of older populations; long-term care models which reflect older-person-centred care; and the creation of enabling environments. The course is underpinned by the concepts of intrinsic capacity and functional ability. Students are offered an optimistic view of population ageing, and will be equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to take action to improve the health and wellbeing of older people. This course maintains an international focus and is relevant to high, middle and low income countries.

Credit points

This course is an elective course in the postgraduate programs within the School of Public Health and Community Medicine, comprising six units of credit towards the total required for completion of the study program. It is also a stream defining course for the Master of Public Health specialisation in Ageing and Health.

Mode of study

This course is offered in two modes: 1) either face-to-face classes on-campus for Internal students, and 2) fully online for Distance External students.

Course aim

This course aims to provide students with a public health framework for action to meet the needs, challenges and opportunities arising from population ageing.

Course Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course students will be able to:

  • Explain the concepts of healthy ageing, intrinsic capacity, and functional ability.
  • Identify opportunities for public health action across the life course, relating these to the trajectories of healthy ageing.
  • Describe the shortcomings of current health care systems, and identify features of health care systems better aligned with the care needs of older populations.
  • Describe the current shortcomings in long term care provision, and describe the features of an integrated system of long term care.
  • Discuss the features of an age-friendly world, and explain the role of the environment in optimizing functional ability.
Learning and teaching rational

Our approach to learning and teaching is based on adult learning principles. We expect that you are: internally motivated and self-directed; are goal focussed; like to manage your own learning; want your learning to be relevant and useful; and have life experiences and knowledge to bring to your learning experiences, and to share with others. Therefore, this course has been designed to offer you as much flexibility as possible. It draws on contemporary internationally relevant material which promotes a paradigm shift in the way ageing is viewed and the health and long-term care of older people is provided.

Teaching strategies

For internal students, this course entails a “flipped classroom approach”. This means that you come to class fully prepared, having already carefully read the relevant chapter in your course text, watched the related (video) presentations, read any additional material, worked through the relevant reflective activities, and prepared answers to assigned tutorial questions. This allows us to use our time together to discuss and debate aspects of the course material and tutorial activities, and to achieve a greater level of understanding than would otherwise be the case. It also offers time and opportunity to draw on, and share with other students, your own experience in public health and ageing.

External students are advised to read the relevant material in the course text, watch the related (video) presentations, read any additional material, and work through the relevant reflective activities following the same timetable used by the internal students. Your online tutorials are the place in which you will engage with other students and represents the equivalent of the tutorial class for the internal students. There will also be two evening webinars (non-compulsory) during term to provide you with an opportunity to discuss your studies with your course convenors and other students.


Assessment Task 1 - Preparation of topic report
Weighting: 25%
Length: 700 words

Assessment Task 2 - Final report
Weighting: 50%
Length: 2500 words

Assessment Task 3 - Tutorial participation and personal reflection
Weighting: 25%

Readings and resources

Learning resources for this course consist of the following:

  • Course notes for each of four Modules (available in Moodle)
  • Online video presentations (available in Moodle)
  • Course text: World Health Organization (2015). World report on ageing and health. World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Caplan, G. 2014, Geriatric Medicine – An Introduction, IP Communications, Melbourne, available as an e-book via the UNSW Library.
  • Supplementary resources such additional readings and videos (available in Moodle)