as appeared in The West Australian – Your Money, 28 October 2019

We live in rapidly changing and fearfully challenging times. I have been a keen watcher and participant in aged care events, news and discussions. We have had wonderful local events on aged care, dementia and other ageing-related issues. We have also seen numerous media discussions on a national level including most recently Q&A on the ABC discussing aged care with our aged care minister Richard Colbeck and inspiring personalities such as the wonderful Maggie Beer.

The aged care industry is under intense scrutiny for its practices, its standards, concerns over quality of care, and cases of horrible neglect and un-imaginable elder abuse. But amongst the horror of things that have happened and are happening, I am heartened to hear passionate debate over all the positive things that are also being done and the innovation that is occurring in aged care, all of us striving to do things better every single day. There are bad apples as there are in all industries and there must be measures in place to ensure they are removed. But in my experiences with aged care, the bad apples are far outweighed by an enormous majority of extremely hard working, caring, patient, empathetic, resourceful and often under-paid care workers and health care staff. Is this indeed not the biggest asset the aged care industry has?

To add to this, there is an abundance of great ideas and amazing innovation in aged care. Intergenerational programmes – who saw ‘Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds” on the ABC? Technology – check out the virtual reality goggles at TADWA! Important education changing how we view ageing as a community, valuing age rather than discounting it. Exercise options and engaging social activities for the elderly, education on dementia management prioritising wellbeing, community living, dementia-friendly communities, men’s sheds, home monitoring systems, support groups… the list of good good things in my head alone could go on for some time.

Yes we have challenges. But we also have solutions. So if we have solutions, why haven’t the problems been fixed?

Improving aged care facilities costs money. Having higher staff to resident ratios costs money. Having more highly trained staff in care, costs money. Having all the cool programmes and amazing technologies, to one degree or another, costs money. So who pays for it? Isn’t this the enormous elephant in the room?

In 2017-18 the Australian Government spent around $18 billion on aged care (Report on Government Services – RoGS 2019). The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (through GEN Aged Care Data) reported a 23% increase in Government spending on aged care between 2012 and 2017 with 96% of spending on aged care services coming from the Australian Government. With our rapidly ageing population, spending on aged care must surely increase further.

I am the first to advocate for increased Government spending on aged care, along with a number of other essential measures, checks and balances to ensure that money is well spent. However, considering our ageing population, how much further can the Government kitty be stretched? And importantly, do we want to be forced to rely on Government spending for our own future wellbeing. Is there another option?

As an aged care financial adviser my advice to those who can, is to plan ahead. Retirement now goes for longer than ever before. We look forward to this time of life by budgeting for world cruises and grey nomad adventures. But how many of us consider what later retirement will look like and cost?

We do not relish the thought of requiring care I know, and accordingly many of us avoid even considering this as a likelihood in our futures. If we don’t think it about, it might not happen right? Not so. Aged Care increasingly is something we must all address if we are lucky enough to live long enough. When that time comes for you, will you be prepared and will you have set aside savings to help you enjoy every day that you have left, as much as you can?

Carl Jung wrote “The afternoon of life must also have a significance of its own. It cannot merely be a pitiful appendage to life’s morning.”

Let us all change our view of ageing. Let us approach old age with the same vigour and enthusiasm as we approach youth… and more. There are definitely advantages to not being 21 anymore! Let’s plan to do all the cool stuff as we age and enjoy every minute of it.

Benjamin Franklin said, ‘Content makes poor men rich; discontentment makes rich men poor’.

Let us all petition the Government to support us in this journey to contentment and to make it a good one. But let’s also take control and plan for this ourselves as well – and make sure it happens. If you’re not sure where to start, speak to your friendly financial adviser.

Brenda Will and DLP Life Design are Authorised Representatives of Synchron, AFS Licence No. 243313.

The information contained in this article is general in nature and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from a financial adviser.