Aged care managers should make a special effort to get to know the residents at their facility, while residential aged care nurses and personal care workers need to be patient and take their time when caring for older people.
These are among the messages from seniors to aged care providers that are captured in a new series of interviews featured in the research study, Experiences of Ageing in Australia, which asked older people what was important to them as they aged and what it felt like to be getting older.
The researchers at La Trobe University who conducted the two-year qualitative study said the research filled an important gap in our collective knowledge on the lived experience of ageing.
Experiences of Ageing in Australia, which was initiated by Healthdirect Australia, was launched in Sydney on Wednesday by Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield, who said it would be a useful resource for older people, aged services providers and policy makers.
Associate Professor Kath Ryan, director of research in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at La Trobe University, told the launch that the researchers had travelled throughout urban and regional Australia to interview the seniors in their homes.
The research findings are presented online as video, audio and written excerpts from the interviews with 56 seniors.
“Ageing was generally experienced as a gradual process that people did not worry much about. Some people felt the same as when they were young, and others felt they had grown in terms of their experience, knowledge, confidence and self-acceptance. There was also more tolerance toward others. A positive attitude was seen as an asset for being able to make the most of each day,” the research found.
Commenting on his self-perceptions of ageing, interviewee Chris says:
“You get really comfortable with yourself, that you know who you are, you don’t have to prove anything either to yourself or to other people.”
Another research participant Marlene says she does not get as agitated as she used to:
“My girlfriend and I were talking about it the other day; that is one beautiful thing of getting older, is the wisdom. You don’t get het up [angry] as much as you would.”
Messages for policy makers
As well as discussing their self-perceptions of ageing, the research participants spoke about the health and social aspects of ageing, and they provided a range of “messages for others” including to fellow seniors and young people.
When asked for their message to policy makers, a common view among the participants was that public policy should change from being concerned about the burden of ageing to the contribution older people could make.
“I think the best step that we could take now is to up the retirement age to 70, because we are living longer and living better lives,” says research participant Denis.
Another interviewee Richard tells policy makers:
“In an ideal world, it would be nice to have suburbs that are planned for a mixture of age groups; that you don’t have to make a choice for being young or old. You know you could go somewhere where you could feel yourself that even though you’re older, you’re still part of that same community, but you have the facilities to make your physical life much easier.”