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COVID-19 discourages more Baby Boomers from entering aged care

New research from aged care provider, RSL LifeCare, has found that the COVID-19 pandemic has created more negative views about aged care, with nearly a quarter of Baby Boomers not wanting to enter formal care.

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Around 23 percent of Baby Boomer participants in the survey said COVID-19 had put them off entering aged care homes. [Source: Shutterstock]

RSL LifeCare's second annual Baby Boomer Survey talked to 1,000 people aged between 56 and 74 about their opinions on ageing and aged care. 

The report found that 23 percent are less keen about entering aged care due to the impact COVID-19 is having on nursing homes around Australia.

Graham Millett, Chief Executive Officer of RSL LifeCare, explains that COVID-19 restrictions in aged care over the pandemic have caused many Baby Boomers to be apprehensive about experiencing those same issues if they move into a nursing home.

"COVID has likely further validated people’s attitudes towards aged care services… Almost a quarter of Baby Boomers feel more negatively towards residential aged care than they did before the pandemic hit," says Mr Millett.

"This reflects the rolling lockdowns of communal aged care facilities that have prevented family visits, along with communal outbreaks (particularly in Victoria), which have seen hundreds of Australians die in formal aged care facilities after catching COVID."

Victorian survey participants had more negative sentiments, with 27 percent less open towards residential aged care compared to the national average, as the State experienced long lockdowns and many COVID-19 outbreaks in aged care.

The RSL LifeCare research findings about COVID-19's impact on aged care are consistent with broader sector data, which shows a significant reduction in aged care admissions between April and September 2020.

There were 5,300 fewer people admitted to permanent aged care in 2020 compared to 2019, and 11,100 fewer people were admitted to respite in aged care in 2020 compared to 2019.

While Baby Boomers generally have a poor regard for formalised aged care options, RSL LifeCare says there does seem to be changing perceptions and attitudes towards aged care.

The report found 16 percent of participants believe aged care is very good or excellent, up from 10 percent in 2020, while 39 percent say it's less than satisfactory or poor, down from 48 percent in 2020.

RSL LifeCare believes this shows aged care providers are turning around previously poor perceptions about the sector and the Federal Government's recent investment of $17.7 billion into the sector may also be contributing to this positive effect.

Mr Millett adds that these findings present an opportunity to meet the demands of Baby Boomers while providing high quality care as it’s needed.

"As more Australians begin their aged care journey through uptake of home care services, before transitioning to residential aged care, providers can work with clients to assist along that continuum of care," says Mr Millet.

Other highlights from the report include:

  • Due to COVID-19, 14 percent of Baby Boomers feel more positively about receiving occasional home care visits so they can live independently at home for longer, while 11 percent would do the same but for full-time visits

  • In general, 78 percent of older people want to stay living in their own homes while receiving some form of home care service

  • Only three percent of Baby Boomers want to enter communal aged care in its current form, but people will only move into formal care if their physical or mental needs force them to move into aged care (64 percent) or they became a burden on their family (29 percent)

  • 70 percent of Baby Boomers believe that the aged care sector is not well funded

  • 60 percent don't believe Australia does enough to support the elderly

Baby Boomers want change in aged care

The RSL LifeCare survey also found that the next generation to be looking at aged care want to revolutionise aged care through systemic change that will benefit their own health and wellbeing.

RSL LifeCare states that Baby Boomers are "rejecting traditional forms of communal aged care living" and prefer to live on their own.

If Boomers have to move into communal care (92 percent) they want to be well fed, well supported, and well travelled, as quality food, wellness support and excursions are the three most important services to this generation. These areas are what people consider when looking into aged care facility options.

Baby Boomers believe they are fitter and healthier than ever with 91 percent of Boomers saying their overall wellbeing is good, very good or excellent, while 84 percent rate their physical health on the same scale, and 89 percent believe they have good mental health.

RSL LifeCare believes that this ageing population will demand the country to make huge systemic changes to the way it provides care to older people.

Mr Millett says Baby Boomers are changing what ageing looks like with a bigger focus on personal and financial independence, health, and wellbeing.

"As Baby Boomers age, do they intend to do so gracefully, adhering to customs and activities of previous generations, or will they demand a new way?" says Mr Millett.

"Our research shows a remarkable 40 percent of Baby Boomers are still working, an extraordinary 61 percent expect to fund their own retirement and a mere seven percent are currently drawing on any formal aged care support, making them a resilient and independent generation...

"Remarkably, they are also more optimistic and in better health than their children.

"This is the generation that doesn’t want to age like their parents and grandparents. They want to balance lifestyle [and] socialising with personalised high-quality care. Delivered on their terms."

RSL LifeCare expects that Baby Boomers living tastes will likely have a huge impact on the $30 billion aged care industry.

While Mr Millett believes it is important to nurture Baby Boomers' wish for independence as they age, this does need to be balanced with easy access to high quality care when they need it.

To review the full report, head to the RSL LifeCare website.

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