Pat Sparrow, COTA’s director of aged care reform engagement, believes “there is so much discrimination against older people that it’s sometimes hard to see”.
“We really need to address this if we are to create a healthy environment for older people who want to continue to contribute to their communities,” she said, addressing delegates at the National Aged Care Conference Living Longer. Living Better in Adelaide this week.
Ms Sparrow discussed the importance of enabling Australians to ‘age well’ and reflected on the outcome of the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler’s, national conversations with older Australians last year.
“It was a privilege to travel around the country and listen to about 3,500 older Australians and hear what was important to them as they age,” she said.
Perhaps one of the most prevalent issues discussed by the majority of older Australians at these national conversations was the importance of wellness.
“I think the whole concept of wellbeing needs to be a combination of physical, mental and emotional,” she said.
Ms Sparrow added it was important for all of us, whether young or old, to have some “control over our own lives and destiny”.
Some of the other key themes she uncovered from meeting with older Australians were the importance of human rights and respect, staying fit and healthy and maintaining independence.
“A lot of these themes are no-brainers when we think about our own wellbeing, and these older Australians said they want to be valued as individuals who have contributed to society.”
She believed the federal government’s Living Longer. Living Better aged care reform package has been “good in recognising” these themes, including increasing community care for those wishing to remain living at home.
‘Social connectiveness’ was another important issue to older Australians, Ms Sparrow claimed.
“One older woman hung on to my hand and wouldn’t let me go and said ‘I haven’t seen anyone as young as you for a very long time’. Think about what that’s like for a person, so social isolation is important in terms of wellness and wellbeing.
“Keeping up with social and community connections is really important to older people.
“There needs to be more choice and more control because that’s how Australians deserve to age well,” she said.
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