Posted on Jun 02, 2016
As the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age, a greater diversity in the wealth, health and care preferences of Australia’s seniors is becoming evident. Innovations in the aged care industry are already emerging to meet these changing demands. With the recent shift to Consumer Directed Care, seniors are increasingly setting their own agendas when it comes to expectations within the aged care industry. Here are five trends which will continue to grow over the next decade.
Many seniors have the finances and resources to undertake programs which prolong longevity and quality of life. Doing more exercise and giving up smoking are two of the positive lifestyle changes evident. Organisations such as Active Ageing Australia have recognised the need for senior fitness, particularly strength training, in preventing falls and other potentially debilitating problems. Senior residential care facilities also place greater emphasis on fitness with gyms, swimming pools and walking tracks being incorporated into designs.
Seniors usually wish to remain in their own homes or age in a neighbourhood of their choice. This allows them to retain independence and maintain the security of living in a familiar community with the support mechanisms they have developed. The Australian government’s in-home aged care program allows seniors to tailor packages to suit individual needs. It may also include installation of safety or mobility features in the home. In order to offer choice, aged care facilities are being built in more areas, not just large cities. Other senior care facilities are designed to cater for particular ethnic or religious needs e.g. halal eaters or members of the LGBT community.
As seniors demand more choices and independence from in-home and residential care facilities, there is also a trend towards ensuring that seniors remain active and welcomed in the wider community. Organisations such as the Council on the Ageing hold regular conferences and workshops to educate governments, councils and city planners on the needs of seniors. This means that senior care facilities and providers must be creative as clients are not prepared to be limited to a particular space or organised excursions.
The new generation of seniors is tech savvy. This has implications for in-home carers and residential facilities. Many seniors will be able to remain independent in their homes by using monitoring equipment and software to ensure safety and complete tasks. A range of apps are available, for example, to help seniors keep track of medicines and when to take them. Some senior care facilities already offer software which allows residents to input the meals they would like each day and the times they prefer.
Just as more Australians will wish to retain independence into old age, a significant number will become a statistic in the dementia crisis. Extensive research is being conducted into Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia and already residential facilities are adapting as new findings emerge. Pet, music and baby doll therapies are increasingly used to stimulate memory and assist with quality of life. As more information becomes available, sufferers and their families will seek providers which reflect cutting edge research.
In the past, senior care tended to adhere to a “one size fits all” system. These five trends indicate that person-centred care has become a major focus in the industry. Quality aged care facilities and in-home care providers are already responding to this new philosophy. The responsibility also lies with seniors and their loved ones to provide feedback and ensure that the Australian aged care industry continues to meet needs.
Image credit: "Senior citizens" (cropped) by Nicu Buculei. (Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic)