Don't go it alone: Life satisfaction among older Australians

The Australian population is ageing. Responding to this demographic change is critical to both capitalise on the opportunities and meet the challenges population ageing presents. Successful ageing represents principles adopted by different actors to improve outcomes for older people and society generally. It describes individuals' experience of 'the best old age possible'. Achieving it offers a range of benefits to individuals and the community as a whole in the context of population ageing.

Successful ageing has been evaluated in terms of the absence of disability or disease.The prevalence of a biomedical basis for evaluating successful ageing has been criticised on the grounds that it is a narrow view of favourable outcomes. Subjective evaluations of the successfulness of ageing are important because there is much more to the experience of ageing than the presence or absence of disease and disability. This report focuses on one element of subjective wellbeing among older Australians: life satisfaction.

Life satisfaction has been considered as a cognitive evaluation of subjective wellbeing. This multidimensional concept fundamentally represents how people evaluate their life as a whole as opposed to current feelings. The complexities of subjective wellbeing have been widely researched and this has included studies of older people. Such studies have found consistent associations between socio-economic status, competence in daily life, adequacy of social networks, the role of age and meaningful life course transitions, perceived wealth and health status and subjective wellbeing among older people.

Understanding life satisfaction as a means to optimise the experience of ageing in Australia also presents opportunities to a range of actors, including public policymakers and industry. Whether through refocusing policy initiatives to support improvement in non-biomedical indicators of successful ageing, deploying programs that facilitate retention of critical skills in workforces, or by finding new opportunities for businesses to build market share among older Australians, engaging in new ways with older Australians has the potential for diverse benefits.

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