Ask someone what images the word ‘ageing’ conjures up in their minds and you are likely to be met with terms such as frail, old, sick and illness. As a society, we have been conditioned over time to believe that ageing is not a positive experience; that mental and physical illnesses as well as dependency and lack of self-worth are part of getting old. The concept of ageing is more often than not, associated with many of the following stereotypes, with research showing the negative impact this has on both older people and society in general.

Alzheimer’s disease is to be expected with old age
Sickness and disability come with old age
Older people cannot learn
Old people are weak and helpless
Old people are unproductive

HOW DO WE REFRAME AGEING?
Making sure that our society changes their attitudes about ageing is not an easy task, but it is crucial to ensure we all live longer and well in our communities. It is important to note that many of our elderly population are in fact living very healthy and independent lives; a fact that is often not appreciated or not recognised by the remainder of the public.

So how can this attitude shift occur? Along with education about the role ageing individuals play in our society, the following needs to be achieved:

A change in our views associated with older people from those of deterioration, incompetence and dependence to a recognition of diversity, life experience and independence in society.
Older people being considered as central, rather than marginal participants in society.
Raising awareness of the benefits of employing and retaining older people in the workforce.

RESPONDING TO THE OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES OF THE AGEING POPULATION
According to the NSW Ageing Strategy 2016-2020, we need to address five priority areas highlighted by older people across NSW, which they feel are important:

Health and Wellbeing

Older Australians understand that retaining a good quality of life lies directly within their health and wellbeing, including mental and emotional wellbeing. Focusing on this area involves taking action to improve and maintain one’s health and planning for the future by remaining physically active and having conversations around topics such as planning where and how to live, gaining support or seeking health and legal advice.
Working and retiring

Maintaining paid work for longer is becoming increasingly important for the ageing population. Planning ahead for individuals to stay in the workforce longer through avenues such as training, education and financial advice, if that is what they want, is vital to ensure they can maintain their independence. The ageing population need to feel secure in their employment options so as to avoid social isolation and instead feel confident in their working and retirement plans.
Housing choices

Most individuals want to age in place where they can maintain their social networks as they get older. It is important that issues surrounding renting, housing affordability and housing design are addressed to ensure individuals feel safe and secure in their current and future housing situations.
Getting around

Not having transport options available in a community is a huge barrier for older people who wish to access services and participate in social and economic life. The ageing population need to be provided with safe, accessible and affordable transport to ensure they can maintain their connection to the wider community.
Inclusive communities

Loneliness is a growing concern in our ageing population and can occur for many reasons including health, those from a CALD background and those living in residential care. An inclusive community is one where older people are included, respected and recognised while being encouraged to participate in social activities.

HOW IS 3BRIDGES CONTRIBUTING TO REFRAMING AGEING?
We are offering older people who are at risk of social isolation with inclusive volunteering opportunities to reduce their social isolation and increase their sense of connection and community engagement;
We are offering a range of recreational activities to cater for the different needs and likes of older people;
We are seeking funds to pilot a Dementia Meeting Centre that support people with mild to moderate Dementia and their families. This model of care will be a unique service in Australia. It has been extensively piloted and evaluated in 142 centres in the Netherlands and has been successfully implemented and replicated in Poland, Italy and the UK;
We are designing Brain Health training program to deliver to the senior market;
We are creating 3Bridges Meetup groups that facilitate access to support and social inclusion.

If you would like to find out more about our activities, services and programs please get in touch with us today!

References:

By Australian Ageing Agenda on March 4, 2015 in Culture, Opinion 58
NSW Ageing Strategy 2016 – 2020