‘Ageing in Place’ conference held at USC
U3A Sunshine Coast Vice-President John Saint-Smith attended July’s ‘Ageing in Place’ Conference held at the USC Innovations Centre, with 140 aged care professionals, researchers, local practitioners, residential and in-home aged care providers. VP John’s report on the conference follows:
“The 60-80 year old, physically and mentally active retired/redundant demographic are among the most numerous and valuable volunteer workers in any age group,” John Saint Smith said.
A major theme of the conference was the provision of ‘in-home’ services that would help older people to maintain their independence and dignity in the safety and comfort of their own homes or in supportive settings.
The conference was organised by the Business Council of the Sunshine Coast with many notable speakers including USC Vice Chancellor, Helen Bartlett who expressed concern that few people choose a career in aged care because it is perceived as a dead end casualised job and wages are not attractive.
Professor Laurie Buys, Director of the Healthy Ageing Initiative, UQ; Ms Kate Meyrick, Director URBIS (urban design consultants); and Liam Mayo, CEO of BE (home care package provider); and Adjunct Industry Fellow for the School of Social Sciences, USC were also in attendance. Ted O’Brien represented the Minister for Ageing, Senator Richard Colbeck.
“The Federal Government’s Royal Commission on Ageing has significant implications for U3A, as our organisation already performs a substantial part of the ‘healthy aging’ agenda described in the Commission’s final report,” says VP John Saint Smith.
“One of the major statistics from the report was the recognition that the number of ‘aged’ people in Australia has been rising steadily for many years, both in raw numbers and as a proportion of the total population. At present there are 4.2 working age (15-64) people for every Australian 65 and above. By 2060 this ratio will have decreased to 3.1.
This decline has implications for the financing of the aged care sector and the aged care workforce. As a result, the Australian Government has committed to provide substantial funding ($1.9 billion over ten years) for the aged care sector.”
John Saint Smith says both the Federal Government and the Aged Care industry see their role as ‘looking after’ the elderly as their health increasingly declines. “Yet this totally ignores the contribution made by the 60-80 year olds, physically and mentally active retired/redundant demographic, who are among the most numerous and valuable volunteer workers in any age group.
“For us, as academic research shows, this should be an opportunity to radically re-think our approach to seniors. We seem to have neglected the traditional notion of ‘wise elders’, common to virtually all human societies from hunter-gatherers to post-industrial economies. Society should be able benefit from the knowledge, experience and accumulated wisdom of those who have lived longest. Unfortunately, in Australia, we have come to regard these silver-haired golden assets as a burden of moral obligation which must be borne by the ‘productive’ members of the community.”
John Saint Smith plans to liaise with academics and service providers as well as groups similar to our own, with a view to forming ‘Action and Advocacy Groups’ to advance the cause of the Sunshine Coast’s elders and enablers. “The only way in which we can avoid being shovelled off into ineffectual dependence … is to advocate for ourselves: speak now or forever suffer in silence – on the national ledger as a cost, not an asset.”