Australia has a growing proportion of people aged 65 and over, and we can expect longer lives on average. So how does an ageing population affect healthcare – and what can we all do to maintain good health and happiness throughout our lives?

Australia is growing older

Increased life expectancy and lower birth rates mean that as a population, we’re living longer and well into older age. As of June 2020, around 16% of Australia’s total population was 65 or older. This has grown from 12% in 1995, and even more so from 8.3% of the total population in 1970.

So given that one in six Australians is now over 65 years of age, how are we shaping up? The great news is that in 2018, around 3 in 4 older Australians reported their health as either good, very good or excellent. In saying this, older Aussies can sometimes have more complex health needs to manage aches, pains and illnesses. 49% in this age group have arthritis, for example. 

What impact does the ageing population have on healthcare, both now and in the future?

The impact of an ageing population on the healthcare system in Australia

The Federal Government’s 2021 Intergenerational Report predicts that the number of Australians aged 65 and over will double to 6.9 million by 2060-61, or 23% of the Australian population. This growing number of older people will likely see a few different developments within the healthcare system and in the broader social landscape. 

Increased demand for health services

More people living with complex health needs will mean greater demand for quality health services. Fortunately, health care and aged care are looking ahead with long-term planning to meet these growing needs. Services such as increased funding for public hospitals, self-care support and quality residential aged care will help to support Australians’ independence and wellbeing as we grow older in greater numbers. Memory support units and quality dementia care will also be expanded as the need for these services increases.

More focus on primary care

You might be wondering how an ageing population affects health care quality and delivery. We may well see a greater focus on primary care in the future, which can help to minimise hospitalisations and lead to a healthier population overall. Governments may decide to provide more funding and resources to primary care providers, such as GPs and allied health professionals, to help manage health concerns and provide responsive care. We can also expect to see more preventative health initiatives, to help recognise and minimise common health issues. 

Rising healthcare costs

An ageing population’s effect on healthcare costs is easy to guess – that is, care will cost more as a whole. It’s expected that total healthcare expenditure will grow from 19% of total government spending in 2021-22 to 26% by 2060-61. Though this isn’t something the average Aussie needs to worry about, governments will no doubt need to adjust budgets and funding accordingly while planning ahead for the future. 

Inclusive healthcare delivery

As well as growing older, Australia’s population has also become more wonderfully diverse than ever before. Expect to see our health care and aged care systems become more inclusive and accommodating when it comes to people of all backgrounds, languages and cultures as a wider group of Australians enter old age. Health care and aged care should both provide the same high level of care to every individual.

What we can all do to age well

You know the saying: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” There’s so much we can do to maintain our independence and wellbeing as we age, and it’s the small incremental things we do daily that can make a big difference to how well we live as we get older. In fact, our care at all Aurrum Aged Care homes is based on this positive approach.

As much as possible, follow these tips for general health and wellbeing.

Enjoy a healthy diet

The food we fuel our bodies with at all ages should be fresh, rich in protein, vitamins and minerals – and of course, delicious. If a loved one is considering care, be sure to choose an aged care home with nourishing meals. Nutrition is so important that we have dieticians working closely with our chefs to develop menus that meet the specific dietary needs and preferences of each resident at Aurrum Aged Care.

Keep active 

Varied physical activity can help to maintain or even improve balance, strength, mental health and general wellbeing. Yoga, strength training and gardening can all be effective – and a lot of fun! We should all be pursuing physical activities we enjoy and encouraging our loved ones to get active regularly. The great news is that there are ways to flex, stretch and move at every age.

Stay social 

Regular conversations and social interactions are so important for health and wellbeing, and strong relationships can even add years to a person’s life. It’s been found that social connection can even support better physical health and immunity. Classes, outings and workshops are all brilliant opportunities to connect socially, and at all Aurrum locations we offer curated lifestyle programs in aged care that truly have something for everyone.

Be proactive about healthcare needs

Of course, each person’s health and wellbeing is entirely unique. Addressing any health concerns early on can help to minimise pain, optimise treatment and prevent bigger problems or hospitalisation. Be sure to speak with loved ones about any healthcare needs they might have, and support one another to be proactive about health appointments and check-ups. You can also consider a free Aged Care Assessment to find support if everyday tasks have become difficult in older age for yourself or a loved one. 

Create a care plan

Having a clear care plan can help you and your family to access the best support when it’s needed. If someone you care for is entering residential aged care or accessing at-home support, the first important step will be developing a care plan for your loved one. A care plan can set out everything from clinical care needs, to pain management details, to the little things that help you feel comfortable and at home. As we ensure at Aurrum, each care plan should be developed closely with the person accessing care, to enable them to have choice and control over the care they’ll be receiving. This is the very heart of person-centred care.

Value independence

We all enjoy our independence, and contrary to common misconceptions quality aged care support can actually help you to maintain that independence well into older age – be it with at-home support, or while living in residential aged care. Many people hesitate to access aged care support, but doing so can help you to live well and keep enjoying the things you love – just with a little extra help. 

Many spouses, children and friends might also provide care for loved ones who are getting older or starting to find things more difficult. Remember that if you are a carer, respite care is available if you need a break so you can enjoy your independence too.

Learn more about quality aged care

Aurrum Aged Care delivers exceptional residential aged care services in Victoria and NSW. If you’d like to know more about finding aged care support or making the move to residential aged care, you can read our Guide to Aged Care or speak directly with our friendly team today.