With Scott Morrison announcing a royal commission into Australia’s aged care system and the news that over 50% of residents in nursing homes suffer from depression, what is being done to care for our ageing population?
We all age. We will all, hopefully, be one day counted amongst our country’s elderly population. The fortunate among us will endure the tests of time, our hair will grey, our skin will wrinkle, and we will have a progressively difficult time blowing out the increasing number of candles on our birthday cake, each one an annual achievement in longevity.
Some of us spend our lives eagerly anticipating retirement, a time well-earned by years of hard work and dedication. With a knowledge base of experience, character strength and untapped skills, our ageing population have significantly contributed to our economy, advances in technology, and the building of our families.
So why, if all of this is true, does society seem to see our ageing population as a drain and not an asset?
Shocking stories of elderly abuse in nursing homes, residents being restrained and left for hours at a time, medication used for trivial purposes such as quietening down noisier individuals, are just the tip of the iceberg.
These stories unnerve us, disgust us, ‘what if that was my parent?’ we think, ‘what if that was my grandparent?’ Some of us may even think ‘what if that was me?’
But something else is happening that we should be equally concerned about. Something that has been emerging slowly for some time now but is ramping up as the demographic expands.
A plague of isolation and loneliness is swarming throughout our ageing population.
It is projected that there will be 8.8 million older people in Australia by 2057. That’s 22% of the population, a huge number that shows no signs of slowing down as we enter the latter half of this century.
Massive leaps in health care and education have led to people living longer and has introduced new challenges for health and aged care providers alike. Physical, psychological and social changes in this elderly generation challenge their sense of self and capacity to live fulfilled, happy lives.
The stereotypical view of the elderly is also a persistent concern. People grow older in a multitude of ways. Although there are similarities across the board, people may get older and still run marathons. They may volunteer, care for others, travel, mentor, fall in love, piece together jigsaws, drink tea, watch murder mysteries on television, sleep all day.
But there seems to be one thing that decreases substantially for most people as they get older.
Perhaps it is due to living alone, perhaps a lack of close family ties, maybe it is the loss of connection to the culture they grew up in, whether it be due to moving countries or due to time passing and the world changing, but elderly people are less and less likely to have the ability to actively take part in their community.
Over the next few weeks, we will look at some of the work we have done across Perth with different organisations and businesses. Some of them provide aged care, others facilitate events for the elderly, all of them understand the importance of caring for our elderly population and how vital building community is for their quality of life.