For some situations, prevention is better
than cure – it’s how we intend to bring the
pandemic under control with a vaccine.
With ageing, there is no ‘cure’. We can cure
some of the individual ailments that arise,
but it’s increasingly clear that to get the best
out of the rest of our life, the best strategy is
prevention. We progress through three basic
stages as we age – Able, Less Able and
Dependent. The SHAPE Analyser indicates
each of these stages plus the estimated
lifespan. Possible preventive action to
improve overall wellbeing is identified.
Government in Australia has increasingly
outsourced responsibility for aged care to
‘for profit’ providers. This is an unsuccessful
strategy. Better funding and oversight of
performance is required but more basic
changes may be necessary.
People admitted to aged care are unable to
manage essential processes of daily life and
need full support. Home care is increasingly
sought, reflecting dissatisfaction with
institutional care and the demographic shift
to an older population. Home care is also
under increasing pressure.
This has been a problem for years, and the
pandemic has exposed it totally. We need
major change. As a community we must also
invest more in educating ourselves about
increasing longevity and fund this by getting
the better community value from a growing,
capable and experienced older population.
Many people remain well and with the
potential to remain in paid work much longer
than the traditional ‘retirement’ age of 65
while they are still Able. If paid work is not
for them, ‘in kind’ work like volunteering and
grandparenting provides economic and
health benefits. Community benefits – social
and financial - will increase as numbers grow.
What can we take out of this?
We can empower more people from midlife
onwards to understand why longevity is
increasing and what each of us can do to live
healthier and productive lives and commit to
achieving our own longevity bonus.
Governments should also provide more
support for this through providing or
supporting longevity education, reductions in
healthcare premiums for sustained wellness,
support for employers and incentives for a
more holistic approach to personal longevity
planning from health and financial advisers.
Prevention in action – dementia
Dementia research highlights a growing
number of factors in midlife which can
influence the later onset of dementia. They
include peripheral hearing loss, obesity,
hypertension and excess alcohol. From age
65, add smoking, depression, inactivity, social
isolation, diabetes and air pollution. All are
amenable to prevention.
Dementia per capita may be declining, but
larger numbers of people reaching older ages
increases the pressure on aged care
resources. Fostering prevention could be
even more productive than finding a ‘cure’.