A better shot at staying independent

A much-needed online resource has been created, giving older Australians a better chance of remaining independent into their later years and staying at home for as long as possible.

The Positive Ageing Tool (PAT), from not-for-profit aged care provider Benetas, helps older people self-screen their physical resilience, enabling them to plan and take the necessary steps to stay independent for longer.

The tool will put older Australians in a far better position to detect and address early signs of frailty or other minor health issues before a serious health decline.

“Once that happens, for many there’s no going back,” said Dr Catherine Joyce, Benetas’ general manager of quality, outcomes and research. “If someone has low physical resilience, a small incident like a fall or virus could be the tipping point that means they’ll no longer be able to live independently in the community.

“We all know someone who has been managing fine, and then an incident which might be minor for other people tips them over into being in need of high care and residential support. This is about getting in early and helping to avoid exactly that.”

The tool was two years in the making and was a joint project between Benetas and Monash University, funded with the assistance of a $1.2 million federal government department of health grant.

Users are asked to answer five questions to receive a simple health assessment that will help them monitor their physical resilience and ability and, when coupled with expert resources, will support people to continue to lead an independent life. Dr Joyce recommends people over 60 complete the simple assessment every six months.

“They seem like simple questions to answer, but collectively, they’re proven to be strong early indicators for risk of serious health decline. Importantly, there are many steps that we can take to stay healthy and resilient whether we’re 60 or going on 90,” she said.

The tool is part of a larger push to pre-empt minor health issues in older people that, left unchecked or undiagnosed, could quickly devolve into major problems.

“The traditional aged care services from residential care, home care, clinical and allied health services, are all incredibly important, but if we’re going to meet an ageing population, we really need to be at the forefront of early intervention,” said Benetas chief Sandra Hills.

“This is about ensuring that people and their families have the information they need well in advance of their health declining. Whether you’re 65 and going for runs, or 75 and facing prescription changes, we need people to be monitoring their health, taking proactive steps and not waiting until it’s too late.

“PAT is about providing people over the age of 60 with the tools they need to build strength and capacity regardless of age.”

Would you try PAT? Or do you have all the help you need to stay independent well into your later years?

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