It may be time to rethink our perception of ageing. Maybe we should listen to those who have already done it.
A new survey has revealed the age a person can be considered old.
In Australia, it’s 66.
That’s the response revealed in the Ipsos MORI 30-country survey on attitudes towards ageing.
It seems that retirement is concurrent with when Australians think a person hits ‘old age’, but the changing landscape of ageing – particularly in regard to longer term employment and longevity expectations – means this perception is quite removed from reality.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) estimates that those who reach the age of 66 can now expect to live two more decades (another 19.1 years for men and 21.7 for women). And in just the last 15 years alone, the percentage of Australians over 65 who are still in the active workforce has doubled. One in five people over 70 are also still working.
It seems that other countries have more accurate perceptions of ‘old age’.
In Spain, people are considered old at 74 years of age. In Britain, it’s 68, in France, it’s 69 and in Italy, it’s 70.
However, other countries put Australians’ estimates back in a favourable view. In countries such as Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, you’d be considered old at just 50 years of age.
Australians can also expect to live what would be considered a long time in ‘old age’, with lifespans in Australia already amongst the world’s longest.
Currently, men and women can expect to live up to two decades into old age. A boy born today can expect to live, on average, to 80.7 years old. A girl can expect to live up to 84.9 years old. Girls who live in Melbourne’s inner east or on Sydney’s north shore can expect to live to 88 years old. Australia’s ‘healthy life expectancy’ is 73 years old, which is around 10 years above the global average.
In the past 15 years, life expectancy for males has increased by 1.5 years and 1.2 years for females. Steadily declining death rates mean this number is also likely increase in most age groups.
Global average life expectancy is now 72 years, having increased by 5.5 years in the last 15 years.
With all this good news, reports Matt Wade for The Sydney Morning Herald, Australians still have very negative opinions about ageing.
According to the Ipsos survey, conducted in partnership with the Centre for Ageing Better, only 29 per cent look forward to getting old and more than half worry about old age. Only 44 per cent think they will be “fit and healthy in old age”.
Ipsos blames TV, film and advertising for presenting old age in such a negative light, with thte survey finding that these forms of media make later life seem “depressing, with limited opportunities”.
While Australians’ perceptions about ageing may be a little wide of the mark, older Australians make no bones about the value of growing older.
“I know that I get better with every year I get older, so there's no way I want to be younger! Wrote YourLifeChoices member Zen.
“When we start seeing these later years as having potential and opportunity to continue to grow and develop and contribute to others., we might see some changes. The problem as I see it is our society does not value older people – they serve no 'useful' social role in society ... only people who are productive, who consume and who are up with the latest technology have value...which is why everyone is so desperately trying to stay young … madness! We have to step up – know our wisdom. We have so much knowledge of life that our society needs. There is so much we could do if we stepped up and claimed the role of wise elders.”
Captain, another member, added: “Now in mid-sixties and I still think life is great. I look forward to the remaining time I have be it 1 day or 30 years. At the end of it all I believe I have had a wonderful life and will continue to have a wonderful life because life is what you make of it.
It may be time to rethink our perception of ageing. Maybe we could listen to those who have already done it.
How old do you think is old?
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