One of the major problems facing Australian society today is the increasing number of older people who are living alone and isolated from their communities, a consumer advocate has said.
CEO of Victoria’s Council on the Ageing (COTA), Sue Hendy, has called on all Australians to mark World Health Day on April 7 by acknowledging how crucial social activity is to the health of older people.
“Along with the rest of the western world, Australia’s ageing population is increasing and it is an opportune time to focus on these issues,” said Ms Hendy.
“Social isolation is as important a risk factor for chronic diseases as the ‘lifestyle’ risk factors such as tobacco and alcohol, yet is currently neglected.
“All too often our society accepts chronic illnesses related to lifestyle such as obesity and diabetes as an accepted and inevitable part of ageing. Such wrong thinking has led to the neglect of health promotion with a pitiful amount of funding allocated for preventive health programs.”
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reports that lone person households are projected to grow by an average of 2.2 per cent per year from 1.9 million in 2006 to 3.2 million in 2031 – increasing from 24 per cent of all households in 2006 to 28 per cent in 2031.
Almost two-thirds of the increase in lone person households is projected to be among people aged 60 years and over. Women make up the majority.
“We need a fundamental cultural change, a wake-up call for the nation to get active on preventing ill health amongst older Australians by empowering older people. We need more older role models in the media, more older consumers speaking out and more politicians and opinion makers elevating ageing issues onto the public agenda.
“We all need to campaign for a healthier future by demanding change."
World Health Day is a global campaign, inviting everyone – from global leaders to the public in all countries – to focus on a single health challenge with global impact.
To find out more about the day, read AAA's World Health Day article by clicking here.