The bright side

Australia is facing an ageing population; this we have known for some time. But it’s not all doom and gloom. With our population ageing at a slower rate than our European and Japanese counterparts, there is time to act.

As with the United States, Australia experiences a high percentage of migration to bolster its population, which in turn keeps the median age lower and ensures there is the necessary workforce to keep the economy buoyant. Given their higher rate of elderly ‘natives’, countries such as Japan, France and Britain already have in place processes, policies and systems to enable older people to age in their home. Indeed, telehealth was trialled some 30 years ago in the UK, so why does Australia appear to be falling behind?

One must be aware that Japan and European countries have far larger populations and therefore more funds and a more cost-effective drive to research, develop and implement such technology which is required. Of course, it’s not only the development of technology and systems which needs to be addressed.

Infrastructure also needs an overhaul and better design at planning stages would go a long way towards making our towns and cities age-friendly – there is no point in being able to provide every older person with a mobility scooter if the pavements are uneven or too narrow to ride upon.

Comment

This need and implementation of new technologies must be consumer driven. It is fruitless to implement new strategies if the end users are reluctant to switch them on. Older people are now becoming more comfortable with technology but it has taken some time for televisions and computers to be embraced by those who were initially sceptical.

One thing which is certain, with the cost of health and aged care set to rise from its current 9.5% of GDP to 15% by 2050, the time to act is now.

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