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Can An Ageing Population Be An Asset Instead?

An expert panel has decided that an effective, collaborative model for ageing Australia and retirement, as well as new outlook on the matter, is needed ASAP.

The panel, who spoke at Nourishing Australia’s Ageing Population in Brisbane this week, noted  that 3.8 million Australians over 65 have osteoarthritis – this factor alone calls for a grater focus on infrastructure upgrades and better health and lifestyle support for older people.

Panellist and CSIRO principal scientist in strategy and foresight Dr Stefan Hajkowicz said of our outlook on the ageing population, “If Australia’s over 65 age group were seen as an asset to society, attitudes would shift and we’d see greater innovation from industry and new solutions to encourage positive ageing’.

The event at which the experts spoke was to celebrate the launch of a new portion-controlled, easy-to-open fruit cup designed specifically to combat the difficulty many aged Australians face when opening food.

Arthritis expert and Head of the Rheumatology Department at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital Professor David Hunter said the impact of diseases like osteoarthritis is far reaching and second only to mental health.

“Osteoarthritis of the hand is particularly common,” he said.

“Most of us take for granted the daily activities we use our hands for – tying our shoelaces, opening our food or using a knife or fork. To someone who suffers arthritis, these seemingly simple tasks can be incredibly difficult and painful.”

The panel agreed that accessibility and nutrition are not addressed extensively enough by the healthcare system.

“In a hospital or an aged-care facility, every meal should be an opportunity for patients to consume maximum nutrition. Encouraging new food delivery and packaging innovations is definitely a step in the right direction,” Professor Hunter said.

Celebrity panellist and ex-Olympian Gold Medallist swimmer Dawn Fraser offered her personal perspective on ageing, emphasising how keeping active and eating well is essential.

“It’s important to stay active, get moving and get out of the lounge chair,” she said.

“I want to age positively and comfortably, and be able to continue to enjoy the things I love – that’s very important to me.”