By 2045, 25% of Australians will be aged 65 years or older. In 2017, 14% of the population (1 in 7 people) were aged 65 and over (source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare). This recent growth in the population (including the projected numbers) is often attributed to increasing life expectancy.
This is good news because it means healthcare is improving overall. We prevent many premature deaths that could have happened due to infections and diseases. However, the ageing population also presents new challenges that affect the healthcare sector as well as the national economy.
Ageing Australia and healthcare
We can immediately see here that ageing population is closely tied with the need for healthcare. Cardiovascular diseases, cancer as well as respiratory, neurological and musculoskeletal conditions are the most common health problems our elderly face. These problems then have unique healthcare requirements especially if we’re talking about mobility and assistance.
Whether an elderly patient has a physical health condition or not, ageing can lead to natural deterioration of joints, bones and muscles. This restricts the patient’s mobility and makes it difficult to perform daily activities (including brushing their teeth, bathing, getting in and out of bed). Physical assistance is then required which means needing the help a healthcare personnel and/or special equipment and facilities.
There are costs and expenses tied with those special requirements which affect the “spending power” of our elderly and retired. In anticipation of this effect, government agencies have already formulated and implemented policies to ease the burden on both the patients and the national economy. For example, there are government-subsidised aged care homes that allow patients to save money and receive decent care as well. For these subsidised aged care homes to get funding, they have to meet Aged Care Quality Standards. These standards include consumer dignity and choice, ongoing assessment and planning with consumers, personal care and clinical care, services and supports for daily living, organisation’s service environment, feedback and complaints, human resources and organisational governance.
We have come a long way in improving aged care and preparing for the challenges that the elderly are facing. Government subsidies, restructuring of taxation and fund allocation and special attention on the individual requirements (e.g. comfort, mobility assistance) of patients are some of the continuing measures. These measures will then be further improved and revised to address the evolving needs of patients and the entire economy as well.