The Montessori Approach: We are all working towards a better aged care

Category: Organisational leadership and staff development

Ocean Star Aged Care, Catholic Homes Inc, WA

With residents delivering mail, peeling vegetables, running activities, polishing rails, topping up water jugs, and setting the tables, they are active, involved and engaged.

From January 2014, the home has been implementing the Montessori Approach to care, with a vision to “enable individuals to be as independent as possible, to have a meaningful place in their community, to have high self-esteem, and to have the chance to make choices and meaningful contributions to the community.”

Training for all staff focused on a fundamental shift from a traditional care model of “doing for”, to “doing with”.

A passionate desire to improve care delivery initiated this project, originally commencing as a way of improving the lifestyle program, but quickly transitioning to a more widespread cultural change program. Research has demonstrated that this model can improve the quality of life for people living with cognitive impairment, as well as older adults in general, due to enhanced function, increased displays of pleasure, enhanced conversation abilities, decreased disruptive behaviours, and improved family satisfaction (Elliot, 2011).

The activity room was renamed the ‘Family Room’. An urn and dishwasher was installed so residents could make their own cup of tea or coffee. Residents selected photos to showcase outside of their room, and activity stations were developed so each resident could engage in hobbies of interest to them.

Buffets were introduced at breakfast and dinner time. New activities began, led by a resident or community volunteers, including reading circles, art lessons and drama classes.

Residents were matched with ‘job roles’ that best fit their skills, abilities and interests. Each staff member was required to implement at least one job role with a resident, e.g. delivering continence aids. Results were immediately observable, with residents being active, cheerful and enjoying their new ‘jobs’.

Montessori became the focus of staff training, meetings and handovers, so staff were clear on target areas, and any issues could be collectively brainstormed and resolved. Regular feedback and advice was collected from staff.

Each of the improvements, and target areas was formally evaluated via interview, survey and activity evaluations, and progress was logged on the CI plan.

Feedback collected in April 2015 demonstrates the success of the initiative. Comments from staff have included

  • “we think differently”
  • “we have had to change the way we think and the way we do things”
  • “I initially felt we were being mean to the residents, but I now see the positive change in residents”
  • “we have needed to work in a different way and work more as a team and help each other”
  • “we are now more like a family”
  • Residents “talk to each other more”, “help each other e.g. making cups of tea”. 

Comments from families:

  • “some of Mum is coming back”,
  • “my Mum requests to come home early when we go out so she can get on with her chores!”

For more information on the program, contact Sonya Smart, email: or phone: 0407 824 066.