Above: Bernard Salt
By Stephen Easton
Community care franchisor Just Better Care recently brought together a diverse roundtable in Sydney for a frank discussion with representatives of the NSW Government and opposition, on how the state’s ageing strategy will cope with the expectations of ‘politically active’ baby boomers over the next few decades.
According to Fi Bendall, one of the participants and the managing director of Just Better Care’s public relations firm, Bendalls Group, the closed debate on baby boomers and the ageing population amounted to a “reality check” for aged care stakeholders.
“What became clear is that we’re not really addressing the whole social impact of this ageing generation that’s going to be coming through,” said Ms Bendall, whose firm organised the forum. “There is a whole conversation that’s not being had around the expectations [of baby boomers] and the fact that they’re not all going to be met.”
Chaired by KPMG demographer and business advisor, Bernard Salt, the discussion revolved around two characteristics of baby boomers, summed up in their alternative descriptions as the ‘entitlement generation’ and the ‘sandwich generation’, in that they are burdened by the dependence of offspring and parents at the same time.
“This is the ‘me generation’ – university educated, opinionated, articulate, literate and with time on their hands, despite the fact that there may be a small percentage that do look after grandchildren,” Mr Salt said, according to a transcript provided by Bendalls Group.
“The fact is you’ve got quite an agitated, politically active class of people moving into a time of life where if they don’t feel the government, or others, are providing a level of service that they expect, that they are entitled to, then there is an agitation that will flow as a consequence. That, I think, is the challenge of the next couple of years.”
The panel included NSW Minister for Ageing and Disability, Andrew Constance, and his opposition counterpart Barbara Perry, the Member for Auburn, along with three Just Better Care staff members including CEO Trish Noakes, as well as the owner of its Canberra franchise, Fergus Nelson.
They were joined by two architects, Leo Campbell of Campbell Luscombe and Tarsha Finney, a senior lecturer from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) School of Architecture, as well as Tony Hackett, who heads up aged care projects at Microsoft.
Ms Bendall said that following the discussion, Mr Hackett was later invited to join a NSW Government committee on ageing issues and provide advice on the role that technology will play in providing care for the increasing number of elderly people.
Andrew Constance is acting on the meeting by involving the group in discussions on forthcoming NSW Ageing Strategy.
The following is a short excerpt from a transcript of the discussion, taken from a statement provided by Bendalls Group:
Trish Noakes: All our clients want to stay in their homes. Despite how frail many people become, they would still choose to stay living in their own home, even if they risk falling over every day, rather than go into a nursing home or residential facility.
Bernard Salt: How do we manage the expectations of this entitled generation? Baby boomers are sandwiched between living with young adults and caring for elderly relatives, but they are expecting to maintain their quality of life. As an educated, opinionated, articulate, grumpy and demanding group are moving into retirement, if they feel their taxes are not providing a standard of living, with time on their hands they represent a large vocal group; they have the power to wage a relentless campaign. I am interested in a political response to that.
Barbara Perry: I agree people have a right in democracy to say what they want to say, [but] I am not sure that old people have a lot of time on their hands. If you have a look around at what’s happening with old people and their families, a lot are looking after children. There are older people, ageing people, beautiful people taking care of kids who, for whatever reason, cannot live with their family. I am not sure they have a lot of time on their hands. I think there are significant issues for older people and they have a right to have a voice like anyone else.