No matter whether you read magazines, see news reports, link into social media, or follow science; you will often see reports and strategies offered on what women should be doing to keep themselves looking and feeling younger. This is not only because there’s so much money made from targeting people to fight ageing, but because the world population is living longer.
Australia is one of the advanced nations of the world whose population is aging steadily, and this is not only putting pressure on families to make time available for their loved ones, but it is putting more pressure on the country's healthcare sector. Accommodating and supporting the health and wellbeing of the older population is vital – but proving difficult.
Let’s face it, we all want to grow old, but we want to grow old with a mental, physical and emotional state that provides all of us the quality of life we hope for. Immobility, pain, disease, inability to self-care, and mental decline are all health issues that we want to avoid – would you agree? To do that, we must take our wellbeing into our own hands now, before it’s too late.
Let me share with you some of the factors that make Australia's population grow older - issues that affect the older population, and how Australian’s over the age of 65 years can be supported.
Australia's population is growing older
Older Australians accounts for a significant share of the country's population. As of 2020, Australians aged 85 years and above were about 527,400. Based on the Australia Bureau of Statistics, approximately 21 % of the Australian population will comprise individuals aged 65, as displayed in the graph below.
As decades go by, many people will live longer, work longer, but most importantly… will be able to look after themselves, in their own homes, longer.
High life Expectancy
Since the 1970s, the mortality rate of elderly people in Australia has been declining significantly which is terrific for you and me. In the last five decades, the death rate of older people in Australia decreased by about 75 % as older males aged 65 are predicted to live until they are aged 85 and above, while females aged 65 are predicted to live until they are above 87 years. Low mortality rates, medical intervention, and improved health care services in Australia contribute to the high life expectancy.
Low fertility rate
In the last six decades, Australia's fertility rate has been declining significantly. Since 2000, Australia's fertility rate has declined significantly and reached 1.74 births per woman in 2018, which is below the replacement level. This is attributed to a cultural shift in attitude towards the role of women in the workforce. Consequently, Australia has witnessed an increased number of females who prefer pursuing their careers as opposed to having a family; hence more of them have become single or chose to marry later in life.
What Can You Do To Live Longer In Wellness?
As Australia’s population ages, the pressure on the healthcare system is high. Many people’s demands are not being met and this may be avoidable if each Australian, from the age of 50 onwards (or even younger), starts to seriously plan for their future years. By serious, I mean putting time, thought, and conversation into 5 year plans with two scenarios. Scenario one: being in good health and scenario two: needing assistance.
Here are steps to consider to maintain scenario one.
1) Interaction and connection
As we grow older, our network of friends and our social outings decreases. There’s a number of reasons for that but what’s important is that we recognize when we begin to distance ourselves from people and activities, resulting in down times where we might feel a little lonely. It’s important that every effort is made to maintain a small circle of good friends, have common and regular outings to places, activities or services that make us feel happy and whole. It’s important for emotional and mental health. There’s nothing healthy about feeling lonely or isolated.
2) Choosing Foods that Nourish
As we age, appetite and the amount of food we eat at a meal sitting, decreases. It’s too easy to choose sweet, pre-made foods, or skip meals because we just don’t feel like going through the trouble of preparation, or we genuinely don’t feel hungry. It’s hard to get all the nutrients we need from our daily diets so supplementation can be a good idea. If you know you are eating high caloric foods, eating very little, or skipping meals, then Vitamin B, Protein, Fibre and Iron rich foods are important. We can’t go wrong with lots of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and small amounts or lean meats and seafood to make up our weekly diet. Drink lots of fresh water too! We want to be avoiding plaque build up in our arteries which in turn will prevent heart disease and other threatening diseases.
3) Moving Your Body
Why do we sit more as we get older? Is it because we are more tired, that our joints or muscles are weak or sore, or is it that we just do so because we have more time on our hands?
The mindset around moving the body for many people as they age is very incorrect. In fact, many are doing a disservice to their long-term wellbeing. After the age of 50, people should think about moving their body more, and do different activities to what they might have been doing when they were younger. It’s extremely important that we exercise to build bones and muscles for stability, flexibility, and strength. We also must factor in activity that elevates our heart rate which in turn will strengthen our heart and lungs, and prevent organ disease.
Here are steps to consider to maintain scenario two.
1) Increasing At-Home Health Options
While the emergence of COVID-19 has warranted at-home health options, the Australian government is being pressed to consider establishing at-home lab testing systems and screening. But COVID -19 is not the only at-home health risk. It’s important that thought is given to safety devices and equipment being added to areas of the home to improve quality and ease of comfort and support.
2) Increase Support Staff
It is integral for the Australian government to consider hiring more trained nurses, hospice workers and nursing home employees who can offer support to the older population in the healthcare setting and at home. A stay at home option is near always favoured by all Australians as we age, which is why personal strength and health is so vital, but should we need to fall back on support staff, it’s equally important that the very best people, who have received adequate training and who have a passion to care and support all people, are available should we need them.