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Boomers demand more from aged care

Jun 17, 2013Campaign News News

With over 3.6 million people expected to need health assistance as part of the future aged care system, industry stakeholders must discuss the issues posed by an ageing population. By Amie Larter

It was a round-table discussion in 2012 that began the dialogue. Just Better Care convened a meeting to bring together the private sector and government to sit down and discuss what they believe would be the biggest issues facing the aged care industry.

Social demographer Bernard Salt, Inaugural Australian Business Woman of the Year Vera Randall, founder of Just Better Care franchises Trish Noakes, Andrew Constance, NSW Minister for Ageing and Disability Services and NSW Shadow Minister for Ageing and Shadow Minister for Disability Services Barbara Perry, were among the attendees.

Panellists brought extensive knowledge from a range of industries, including technology, architecture and urban planning, government perspective and social reform.

This year, the lobbying continues, aiming to improve the rights of ageing Australians to better health and wellbeing in their later years of life.

Aged Care Insite caught up with three of the lobbying brains to find out what still needs to be done to ensure a positive ageing experience for current and future elderly Australians.

Shifting perceptions of care

Changing the view of Australians about the way they approach, as well as perceive, ageing is a major priority according to Trish Noakes, CEO and founder of Just Better Care.

Since statistics show if you are 60 today, your life expectancy is now 92, Noakes believes we need to dispel people’s ‘It’s just not for me’ attitudes about aged care because the reality is, it will be.

Due to advancements in medicine and health, unless an individual is impacted by disease or involved in an accident – the majority of people will live longer.

“We now have to stop thinking about people doing for us and start thinking much more independently, like what can I do for myself?” Noakes said.

“People often think only to their retirement and 10 or 20 years beyond that; what we aren’t doing is planning for when we live to 90 or 100. And that’s what people need to start doing.”

Community attitudes also need to shift towards more of an intergenerational society. If the elderly are not engaged as an active member of the community, they are not in the mix of life. Noakes believes that they will function at a higher level and issues like dementia and lack of mobility will slow down if people remain engaged.

“We need to focus on how we make our society more accessible, so that we operate from an intergenerational perspective rather than siloing an elderly person into a community which is based around other older people,” she said.

Volume and expectation

Bernard Salt, leading Australian social demographer, told ACI that in his opinion there are two main issues that face an ageing population. The first is the volume of people in the older stages of the lifecycle.

“The oldest baby boomer is now 66 and was born in 1946. There are about 4.5 million baby boomers and they are now moving into the space currently occupied by about 2.5 million people in the preceding generation,” he said. “So there is a volume shift taking place.”

The second concern is the baby boomers heightened expectations of the quality of life and care.

The previous generation came through the war and the great depression, and according to Salt, this has resulted in them not only being modest in number, but also in expectation.

Those that once would just put up with illness rather than going to see the doctor will be replaced with a group that is going to demand service and support.

“The level of service expectation will ramp up per old person and the number of old people will increase,” Salt explained.

“So volumes and values will shift.”

To combat the shift, organisations functioning in the private sector will need to understand and manage the changing aged care and healthcare needs of the baby boomers.

“I think we are looking at a better-informed, better-educated generation coming into the time of life where they require elevated health provision.

“Boomers and health recipients will expect to be consulted, managed and to have a contribution to their management.”

Technological impact on change

Technology will play a large role in facilitating change in attitudes towards ageing and the elderly, facilitating participation as part of a family unit, in the workplace and the general community.

According to Fi Bendall, Director of Bendall Group, technology bridges the gap between generations allowing older Australians to remain active citizens in the community.

“Simply being seen and heard has a massive impact on the attitudinal shifts towards older people. Participation and connection is what technology can deliver, the social impact [of which] is a voice for older Australians,” she said.

Access to social media and online interest sites opened up a range of opportunities for the elderly – one of the most positive being the social interaction between friends and loved ones.

The sheer volume of information and ease of access has played a large role in engaging elderly Australians, decreasing, to a certain extent, levels of isolation.

Bendall believes that the internet has been a key factor in improving the standards of living.

“The concept of technology enablement for a more positive experience can utilise platforms such as Wii or the Xbox, and older people can be playing sports and exercising all from the comfort of their home – yet joined online by other people too,” she said.

“It can really open up life for an isolated Australian.”

To enable the continual integration of technology as a tool for promoting positive ageing, Bendall thinks the government should act as a “thinker, not a doer”.

Recruiting tech savvy advocates to do house visits to share how to use technology, should be high on the agenda.

“The government is providing access through their Online Kiosk for Seniors initiative, but in my view ideally it would be fantastic to recruit volunteers who have access to their own technology and do house calls,” she said.

“We need to build a plan with our communities, peer-to-peer. This will be most effective.”

Read the article on Aged Care Insight here.

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