When discussing the future of Australia’s health and aged care sectors, acknowledging workforce challenges is crucial, a better-ageing advocate has told Australian Ageing Agenda.
“We can’t have this conversation without addressing workforce shortages and training,” said Julianne Parkinson – chief executive officer of the Global Centre for Modern Ageing. “Consistent, high-quality training is essential for the growing ageing population and a healthier population altogether.”
There are a number of routes to bolstering the aged care workforce, said Ms Parkinson. “Solutions include training initiatives, migration strategies – as highlighted in the recent white paper – retention strategies, competitive compensation, career advancement plans, flexible hours, supportive environments, and having technology that’s fit for purpose.”
Technology, added Ms Parkinson, will play a major role in delivery 21st-century aged care in Australia. “In Australia – what we call ‘age tech’ – will play a significant role addressing challenges and leveraging opportunities for the ageing population,” she said.
“Digital transformation is key to meeting the needs of an ageing population and enhancing care delivery. Digital tools streamline healthcare processes and they support ageing in place.”
When it comes to implementing age tech, Ms Parkinson told AAA there needs to be meaningful consultation. “The emphasis on authentic codesign ensures technology serves both the ageing community and the workforce.”
Also important: “technological accessibility, privacy concerns, and training and infrastructure needs.”
AAA spoke with Ms Parkinson ahead of Victorian Healthcare Week where she will chair the two-day Aged Care Transformation conference and talk further about the future of health and aged care in Australia.
Ms Parkinson said – as a nation – we need to ensure we’re prepared for the societal shifts ahead. “Australia can’t afford not to be ready for the future of healthcare. We have an ageing population. We should be an exemplar in improving the lives of our citizens.”
She added: “As a nation it’s incumbent on us to prioritise health, and preventative health measures as well, so that we can cultivate a more well community and society.”
Ms Parkinson told AAA wellness measures were already beginning to be implemented. “We’re noticing the way in which health and wellness is being distributed to those that need it through way of aged care and retirement living, and also to people at home.”
Moving forward, the aged care sector will need to place a greater focus on diversity, said Ms Parkinson. “Modern ageing is inclusive, recognising diverse backgrounds and abilities. And that’s very important because of Australia’s diverse demographic fabric.”
In addition to the challenges, Ms Parkinson told AAA the sector needed to be aware of the opportunities that an ageing population will bring. ”Increased life expectancy brings about health and workforce changes,” she said. “These shifts open opportunities – especially in the care and longevity economy.”
Victorian Healthcare Week is running 18-19 October at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre
Australian Ageing Agenda is a media partner of Victorian Healthcare Week