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Attitude to age must change

21 Oct 2015

Our seniors population is increasingly rapidly, but not enough being done to deal with the rise

Our seniors population is increasingly rapidly, but not enough being done to deal with the rise

There is a tendency for people, including politicians and policy makers, to frame the debate on ageing within a dependency storyline which sees older people as a ‘burden and a drain on the public purse’. Society, the media and policy-makers should continue to rethink what they mean when they refer to ‘old age’.

Old age should be viewed as a spectrum involving a smooth transition through different ages of life.

Governments and society are woefully under-prepared as our population ages rapidly. Longer lives can be a great benefit, but there has been a collective failure to address the implications and without urgent action this great boon could turn into a series of crises.

Health services will have to transform to deal with very large increases in demand for and costs of health and social care. Overall the quality of health care for older people is not good enough now, and older people should be concerned about the quality of care they may receive in the near future.

Social care and its funding are already in crisis, and this will become worse as demands noticeably increase. The split between healthcare and social care is unsustainable and will remain so unless the two are integrated.

Sufficient provision of suitable housing, often linked with support, will be essential to sustain independent living by older people.

Government needs to focus on ageing because it is the most important demographic change underway, will affect the whole population, and will have wide ranging implications for individuals, public policy and public services.

To make a success of these demographic shifts, major changes are needed in our attitude to ageing. An ageing society affects everyone: these issues require open debate and leadership by Government and all political parties. The challenges are by no means insurmountable, but no Government so far has had the vision and coherent strategy to ensure our Territory is ready for ageing.

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