At 21 per cent, the Sunshine Coast has a higher percentage of people aged over 65 compared to the rest of Australia at 16 per cent*. The expectations of how and where people wish to age continues to evolve and the Sunshine Coast Business Council Ageing in Place conference on Tuesday 20 July explored ageing trends and solutions that provide people with greater choice about how they can approach and enjoy their ‘older’ life, and regional businesses with ideas on emerging soft and hard infrastructure needs.
The conference was a sell-out, attended by 125 people including those representing business, government and seniors groups in the region and was hosted at the University of the Sunshine Coast, which plays a major role in training nurses and allied health care professionals for the future. The line-up of highly regarded guest speakers included Federal MP Ted O’Brien, Urbis Director Kate Meyrick, UQ Professor Laurie Buys, and Be CEO Liam Mayo. Senator the Hon. Richard Colbeck, Minister for Seniors and Aged Care Services and Minister for Sport opened the conference.
USC Vice Chancellor and President, Professor Helen Bartlett, an expert in ageing, was a key speaker sharing her wealth of knowledge about how ageing trends impact the choices older people make in regards to where and how they live; and in particular the prospects for ageing in place.**
“While my current focus is on leading USC, over many years my research across the UK, Australia and Asia, has produced a number of reoccurring themes” Professor Bartlett said.
“These include the importance of changing the models of aged care to focus more on enabling people to stay at home or in their community of choice for as long as possible and planning to facilitate timely support packages to prevent premature entry to residential care.
“Baby boomers are seeking different options for their later life living and care choices, so there is a need for more innovative solutions to meet the needs and expectations of the next older generation.
“And lastly, active/healthy ageing education, interventions and opportunities can help prevent or slow many age-related diseases and should be pursued through partnership approaches by local government, health services and community organisations.
“Given the Sunshine Coast’s ageing population will continue increasing from the current level of 20.9 per cent being over 65 — with the largest population growth being in those aged 75 years and over — we need to prepare for the potential impact this will have on our region.
“The challenges we face include a greater pressure on our health and medical services due to a higher prevalence of chronic health and medical conditions such as dementia, coronary heart disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety and dementia; difficulty accessing health and medical services given the lack of public transport; skills shortages in aged care creating issues for quality and standards and more limited retirement living options.
“The Coast will remain popular as a retirement destination, while also continuing to attract business and innovation, as well as tourism. The challenge will be to meet the needs of this growing older population and ensuring that communities on the Coast are as age-friendly as possible, as well as providing older people with opportunities to contribute to the prosperity of the Coast community.
“My interest in this research started when I was offered the opportunity to work on one of the first projects in the UK which surveyed private nursing homes for older people and this really was the start of my research track to address quality and policy issues in health and aged care.
“Having worked in community care and seeing some of the challenges in health services planning for older people first hand, meant undertaking research into ageing and aged care was an appealing way for me to make a difference.
“We have an opportunity to prepare for this growth in ageing population by having the relevant plans in place to address the challenges, but this will require a collaborative approach across government, education and private enterprise to achieve the best outcomes.”
Sunshine Coast Business Council Chair Sandy Zubrinich said the conference was an important conversation starter for the community and local councils to plan and deliver the ‘best’ health and social infrastructure, entertainment, support services and training for the Coast’s ageing population to allow them to continue to engage with and enjoy all the benefits this region offers.
“We hope the service providers and planners who attended benefitted from the high calibre of speakers,” Ms Zubrinich said.
“We had a selection of highly respected and informed speakers who have done the research and had some great lessons to teach us. Ageing is vastly different for every person so we need to respond to and accommodate different ways in which people age by considering the services that complement people’s lifestyles, keep them in their homes for longer, and keep them happy and healthy.”
“People are not only living longer, their expectations of how they enjoy their retirement years are changing, whether they choose to stay in their own homes longer or are attracted to retirement living or similar environments. What is important is having a choice.
“And while there are pressures on service providers, medical services and the government, now is the time to rise above the current debate, question the fundamentals and find new ways to meet the challenges of ageing and keep people longer in place, in community, in health, in prosperity and importantly – in life!,” Ms Zubrinich said.
For more information on the Sunshine Coast Business Council and membership enquiries, visit www.scbusinesscouncil.com.au.
* Australian Bureau of Statistics:
** Ageing in place: Generally the term ‘ageing in place’ refers to aged people continuing to live in the community with some level of independence, rather than in residential aged care. It can also refer to someone in aged care not being required to move to another facility when their care needs become higher.
About the Sunshine Coast Business Council
The Sunshine Coast Business Council is the leading regional business advocacy group on the Sunshine Coast. It represents approximately 4,000 businesses through its membership, which includes key national and regional industry groups and their members as well as national and regional businesses.