Adding life to years in retirement

It’s no secret older Australians are living longer, but how will those added years be spent?

Research from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare indicates we are adding healthy years to our lives at a faster rate than overall years and can expect to live in full health for longer than any previous generation.

More than three million older Australians are making the most of this time.

Dr Kay Patterson OAM, Age Discrimination Commissioner, said: “As we are spending fewer of our later years with chronic disability, it is natural that we want to explore new opportunities.”

“I sometimes talk about people like athletes in their 90s or a 98‑year‑old app developer, but it is just as important to note the many Australians who aren’t jumping out of aeroplanes or being otherwise famous, but are contributing in important ways through their ongoing community engagement.”

Forty‑three per cent of Australians over the age of 55 spend time volunteering and the number of over65s in the workforce more than doubled between 2000 and 2015.

Older Australians make significant formal and informal contributions to our society, and Dr Patterson is living proof.

“I am 73 and still well able to contribute, not only as Age Discrimination Commissioner but also on a couple of notforprofit boards and of course, my family and friends are very important,” she said.

“Older people have a breadth of experience and common sense—they understand many life issues and are able to use past experiences to inform their activities.”

It’s important to recognise the immense opportunities, and not just the challenges, that come with an ageing population. Yet age discrimination and stereotyping are still prevalent.

“During my term as Age Discrimination Commissioner, I have chosen to focus on three major issues—older workers, elder abuse and older women at risk of homelessness,” Dr Patterson said.

“As I meet with and hear the stories of older Australians, I come across many other examples of age discrimination, whether that’s in accessing benefits, dealing with community services or treatment from carers or family members.”

We all have a role to play in addressing these important issues and embracing the contributions made by older Australians.

Dr Patterson, who was a keynote speaker at the National Retirement Living Summit in November 2017, would like to see the retirement sector leading the way.

“I’d like to see the retirement sector continue to employ older people and aim to employ even more over time, ensure staff are informed about the issue of elder abuse, and develop creative and innovative measures to assist women at risk of homelessness.”

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