Jun 09, 2021

The people being left behind in the aged care system overhaul

Carer & resident in garden

When the royal commissioners handed down their final recommendations earlier this year, they proposed that older Australians be included in the design of the future aged care system.

Priority should be “given to research and innovation that involves co-design with older people, their families and the aged care workforce,” they wrote in their final submission.

In its response to the royal commission’s final report, the government accepted this recommendation.

One survey respondent said, “I like that idea. We should have a say in the designing and treatment of aged care.”

Another commented, “I know that there would be many areas that I could provide good advice based on my experience.”

Cycle of ageism embedded

National Seniors is concerned that if older Australians are not involved in creating the new system, a “cycle of ageism” could continue, embedded into Australia’s aged care framework.

“Embedding co-design in a genuine and ongoing way, in various forms and in various settings, directly challenges ageist norms and assumptions, and mitigates against the most pernicious impacts of ageism: disempowerment, lack of control and autonomy, loss of rights.”

Seniors who took part in the survey were wary of “tokenistic” gestures of engagement, such as consultations that ask for contributions but never act on them.

“We must listen”

National Seniors CEO and Director of Research, Professor John McCallum, said, “The royal commission presented us with a once in a generation opportunity to get this right. 

“We have no choice. 

“We must listen to the voices of the people who will be most impacted by the new Aged Care Act.”

The survey found that:

  • Australian seniors overwhelmingly support the prospect of older people being involved in co-designing the aged care system. 
  • Many seniors have a strong desire to engage in co-designing the aged care system themselves, and already have insights and ideas to contribute in this domain – at all levels – from policies, laws and funding, through to residential care room design, food quality and staff pay.
  • Seniors feel that opportunities for them to be involved in co-designing or managing the aged care system are currently minimal. 
  • Seniors want a “seat at the table” for older people and at least an equal say in decisions about all aspects of the aged care system.

It’s ageism, pure and simple

“Of course older people can and must be co-designers of the aged care system,” said Marlene Krasovitsky, director of EveryAGE Counts, which co-produced the research.

“Older people bring perspective, insight and in many cases valuable expertise to the design process. They must be around the table.”

You can read the report in full here.

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