According to the Australian Government’s Intergenerational Report 2015 our population is getting older. Yes, we are all getting older, but are we getting bolder? As older people are we brave and fearless as we face the future? In Australia we have the longest life expectancy in the world. It seems that my “One & Only” (O&O) and I can live well into our nineties therefore we need to plan for the future or at least prepare for it as much as we can.
But how much can we do in the here and now? And will we have others to help us in 10 or 20 years down the track? By “others” I mean someone who has our interest close at heart and interested in our well-being and not an employee of an organisation, as helpful or as kind as they may be. I know that with age comes many hurdles and it is difficult for those (older than me) and without technology at their fingertips to be bolder when it comes to navigating the journey of life in their latter years.
I am contemplating this “older and bolder” lifestyle and as we age how we can maintain control over our lives. By bolder I also mean being assertive and making sure our basic human rights are met. But as we know, older people whose mental or physical capacity declines are vulnerable and these people need support. If you are wondering why I am on this subject it is because I have researched “suitable” retirement care options for my mother who will be 90 years old in 2016.
Fortunately, my mother’s age is no hindrance to her ability to think through her options for the future and she fits well into the “older and bolder” category. She is always asking pertinent questions and considering the pros and cons. At the same time she has grown children who are at her side for support. In Australia we also have Government agencies supporting older people through legislation, policy and practice standards e.g. The Retirement Villages Act 1999 (Queensland). But is that enough?
The Australian Government under the leadership of Sussan Ley, Minister for Aged Care is looking more broadly at ageing. One of the latest initiative is to reconfigure the My Aged Care Gateway to work similar to “TripAdvisor” (a website that allows consumers to give feedback about travel accommodation, restaurants etc). Such a move may help but it is only one small part of the picture and it could mislead some well-intentioned and intelligent people. People who leave feedback with TripAdvisor have “good” and “bad” experiences at the same holiday resort, motel or restaurant. It is not the “source of all truth”.
What the ageing population of Australia needs (including myself) is confidence in the system. I am not interested in the Government producing “glossy” reports and “ad nauseam” discussions about what “quality” in the aged care system means. My interest is in how the older person is treated. I am aware that the discussion has shifted to a person-centered focus – the consumer. That is great but we need to keep it there – centered on the person and not move the pendulum to far from the right or the left.
I want a society that treats older people with dignity (valued, respected and listened to); that they have a choice (options); that they or someone acting on their behalf are contributing to the decision-making in what is best for them (a voice); that they are participants in life, not merely observers; that they know they are loved and not because of their age, but because of who they are, a person of worth. Behind the scenes the Government can do their work: develop legislation, policies and practices; register and accredit organisations; manage compliance; employ staff with innovative ideas for the future; keep the standards high – but please not one “glossy” report at the cost of letting one older person fall through a crack and not know that they are valued and loved and more so if they don’t fit the “older and bolder” category.