Both high and low income Commonwealth countries are facing a surge in demand for long term care for their older populations plus growing difficulties in relying on families and extended households to continue to provide unpaid care.
These challenges are due to the number of people aged 65 and over set to exceed those aged under 25 in all but two of the 53 Commonwealth countries – HIV/AIDS-affected Lesotho and Mozambique – in less than a decade, the new report Ageing in the Commonwealth highlights.
The Commonwealth Association for the Ageing (CommonAge) has released the comparative report it commissioned from Oxford University’s Institute of Population Ageing in the run-up to a forum on elders taking place alongside next month’s Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London.
CommonAge was launched in 2013 by Andrew Larpent, who was then head of Southern Cross Care SA&NT but now chair of the organisation from the UK, where he sits on the board of Abbeyfield Trust.
The rapid actual growth of older populations represents an economic and social challenge for all countries of the Commonwealth, but “many have hitherto not recognised this,” Mr Larpent told Australian Ageing Agenda.
The report highlights Australia among the small group of financially and socially advanced “old Anglophone” countries with established but differing long term care, community care and health care systems for their ageing populations.
“In those Commonwealth countries that combine a high national income with an already large and growing population share of older people, the sustainability and adequacy of social protection arrangements and publicly subsidised health care has become the subject of continuing, close and anxious scrutiny,” the report said.
Mr Larpent said Australia was “one of the best countries of the world” to live well in retirement.
“The aged care system works well and the innovation in healthy and active ageing being pursued by progressive aged care service providers in Australia points the way forward for many countries,” he said.
“Australian aged care is generally of a good quality but there is great scope for providers to reach higher and raise the bar in terms of the dignity and respect accorded to every individual.”
However, the Commonwealth’s long running exclusive focus on youth needed to change, Mr Larpent said.
“Older people have not been recognised and afforded the respect they deserve in Commonwealth discourse,” he said.
“At the age of 92 Queen Elizabeth is a wonderful example of healthy and active ageing. She has been head of the Commonwealth for 65 years and is showing no sign of retirement.
“Hers is a shining example to older people and to the Commonwealth of how older people should be valued, and how their experience should be honoured and respected.”
CommonAge is supporting the World Health Organisation’s call for a Decade of Healthy Ageing 2020-2030.
“All Australian aged care and retirement organisations are encouraged to respond to this call and lead the way in responding to the opportunity,” Mr Larpent said.
Access the report, Ageing in the Commonwealth, here.
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