Executive Diary

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As nature took centre stage, reminding us of its capacity to change lives, proposals to completely alter the aged care landscape for decades ahead were released. Welcome to 2011 and this was only January!

The floods in eastern Australia provided a powerful reminder of nature and of the uncertainties of life. Christmas and New Year are distant as the impact of a disaster of this proportion becomes all consuming. The tragedy of lives lost will haunt many.

The sheer scale of the floods in Queensland and the severity of impact means recovery will be slow and difficult. National Seniors has urged financial support be directed to the Premiers’ relief funds in both Queensland and Victoria. These funds are best placed to deal with individual recovery needs.

As the immediate moves into a re-establishment phase, National Seniors Foundation community grants program will be providing local infrastructure support. From Meals on Wheels to meeting places for older citizens, to equipment in aged care homes, the impact will be felt by older Australians at home and in their community.

The Foundation can provide support to assist with recovery of this essential community infrastructure. I urge members to consider supporting the Foundation so it can assist local communities. (The Foundation is unable to assist individuals.)

January also saw the release of the draft Productivity Commission Report Caring for Older Australians. This long anticipated report provides a comprehensive analysis of the state of age care and a starting point for a debate about how we care for our oldest citizens. Indeed, given the proposals will impact on Australians of all ages for decades ahead, a community-wide debate is vital.

The Report includes proposals for people to pay for aged care as never before albeit (in theory) with some influence over what services are provided, for deregulation of a tightly controlled system, for changes to the treatment of a person’s house for the purpose of the assets test, for Government to provide an Aged Care Equity Release Scheme. The report is surprisingly vague about making employment in aged care more financially attractive.

An important consideration will be that whatever changes are ultimately accepted, implementation must recognize the limits older people have to adapt their circumstances to major policy change, particularly those with financial implications. Transition arrangements will be critical and change phased in over a reasonable time.

There will be a formal consultation process before the final report is handed to the Government in June. National Seniors will, through 50 something, and other forums seek the comments and thoughts of the over 50s. I urge all to take the time to consider the proposals and to provide feedback. From early February a summary of issues will be available from all National Seniors offices. It will also be on the website.

Ultimately the focus must remain on the quality and accessibility of care, ensuring all Australians are able to age with dignity. That will be a test for Government and regulators but most importantly for the whole community.

This article was written by Michael O'Neill and originally appeared in the February/March 2011 edition of 50 something magazine.

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