Did you know that we are two years into the United Nations Decade of Healthy Ageing?
This Decade was so designated because worldwide, 1 in 6 people will be over the age of 60 by 2030. So many of us are living longer that traditional expectations of retirement are being upended as more people live till well over 100.
There is an urgent need for us as a society to rethink our views of ageing. The UN resolution establishing the Decade acknowledges “the need to foster healthy ageing worldwide, in particular to change how we think, feel and act towards age and ageing”, while recognising the older people’s capacity to contribute positively to the world around them.
Ageing well is a concept that transcends aged care. It requires new ways of thinking to foster the notion of living as well as possible for as long as possible. As the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare’s person-centred model shows, the factors that influence our sense of wellbeing are complex and interrelated. They include the way we care for ourselves and others as we age; our sense of purpose; our social engagement and relationships; our financial health and resources, including superannuation; and finally, the support we may need as our bodies or minds become frail. Ageing well focuses on strengthening systems, practices and attitudes that enable life to be lived to its fullest, no matter one’s age.
In promoting ageing well, we need to address the many challenges currently faced by people in their elder years:
worldwide, it is estimated that over 140 million people over 60 are not able to undertake basic tasks to care for themselves with dignity
older women are at the greatest risk of homelessness
older people bear a larger burden of ill health than younger people, largely from chronic diseases as well as dementia
age discrimination is prevalent in Australia, with more than a quarter of people over 50 reporting they have experienced age discrimination in the workplace
Policy responses need to incorporate strategies to change social norms regarding workplace recruitment, retention and promotion; strategies to enable people to remain active in work and social life for as long as they wish and are capable; health promotion and disease prevention approaches to assist people to keep their bodies and minds as strong and resilient as possible.
There are many initiatives being undertaken around the world to address the inequities experienced by older people. Closer to home, I am delighted to be collaborating with MYMAVINS to identify ways to help Australians prepare for and optimise quality of life over the course of retirement and the final elder years. This is only one of the many ways in which we, and others, are seeking to change perceptions and experiences of ageing, throughout the life course.
Perhaps the title of the Benevolent Society’s advocacy campaign to combat ageism says it best: Every Age Counts. Life is precious and all too short. Let’s create a world where everyone can live to their fullest potential, at every age.
Managing Director - Stillpoint Strategy
MYMAVINS Community Collaborator