Our ageing population will have a major influence on the shape of our countries future. In the next 20-30 years, the population aged 65 years and over is projected to increase to 25 per cent of the population- a profound social shift which requires an equally profound shift in our attitudes towards getting older.
In order to leverage the opportunities of an ageing population we need leadership and we need to change the way we think about ageing.
Despite what the billboards and magazines say, growing older is not something we can avoid. Our ability to live longer is a historical achievement that should be celebrated.
Older people are a resource for their families, communities and economies and deserve to age well in age-friendly and supportive living environments.
It has been particularly pleasing to see a lot of our local councils like the West Tamar Council and Central Coast Council actively taking steps to create age-friendly and dementia-friendly communities. But there is more to be done.
It doesn’t matter what colour the Government is, it must provide adequate support to enable communities to become more age-friendly.
We all want to ‘age in place’ and grow older in our own homes and communities, making our own choices - an age-friendly community epitomises this notion.
Age-friendly communities are not created with a one-size-fits-all approach. Everyone is involved – from the butcher to the baker – to ensure that older people in the community remain active, mobile and engaged.
In practical terms, an age-friendly community adapts its structures and services to be accessible to and inclusive of older people with varying needs and capacities. These include; transportation services, outdoor spaces with restrooms, housing, respect, social inclusion, communication and information.
This is not about buckets of money – just a changed perception to view ageing as a blessing and not a burden, and it has to start from the top.
Unfortunately Prime Minister Turnbull is not scoring any points in this area, the only things he’s offered to older Australians are cuts to aged care and dementia services, cuts to healthcare and the removal of the electricity benefit for pensioners.
Moving forward, it is imperative for the Turnbull Government to anticipate and appropriately respond to the needs of our rapidly ageing population and their lifestyle preferences.
More action is needed to protect vulnerable older Australians and promote their inclusion in, and contribution to, all areas of community life.
This article was originally published online in the Tasmanian Times on Sunday 23 April 2017
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