AGED CARE: Federal Minister for Aged Care, Ken Wyatt AM.
AGED CARE: Federal Minister for Aged Care, Ken Wyatt AM.

Aged Care minister wants seniors to think about the future

'Don't use Google, ask Nan'

THE 2018 Federal Budget highlights the government's return to a focus on older Australian issues through funding programs to deal with employment, skills, health, finance and aged care.

Senior News spoke with the Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt AM, who has 19 Budget initiatives he is responsible for, in his Canberra office last month to find out his thoughts on future ageing issues.

Future issues

The minister identified the first two big future issue are Australia's population continuing to have more people living into their elder years and the need to get these people to be re-enabled and abled to remain independent, and living well.

"I notice the number (of people) who psychologically reach this point that they are old and they start to behave old," Minister Wyatt said. "What governments need to seriously think about is this whole notion of an active senior cohort in our population."

The government wants of all older Australians is to think about their life in the context of finances, ageing, aged care, and career planning. "My question to a lot of seniors is, what are you doing for the next 40 years?

"I want people to get their health check so that they can take the intervention needed to prolong their life, and quality of life, to think about their finances, and be well replaced to retire and look after themselves for the next 40 years with whatever Commonwealth pensions exist."

Minister Wyatt also wants older Australians to consider keeping working, either in their existing industry or in a new one, such as Aged Care. "In Aged Care I need by 2050 another 940,000 people on top of my current 366,000," he said. "I want people to turn their minds to other opportunities."

The 65-year-old is planning for his future, even putting money aside for when he "needs to be in Aged Care". "The government will provide some level of funding, but equally, having worked in this area, I am ensuring that I have sufficient funding for both myself and Anna for when we go into a retirement village or Aged Care facility together," he said. But, not until his 90s. He intends staying active in some form of work and in his community for quite a bit more time.

As to what to do with our leisure time, Minister Wyatt says we need to plan for our leisure time to help us avoid falling into depression. "This is why I have sought and gained the mental health funding," he said.

A gap year?

He advocates a pre-retirement strategy of a planned 'gap year' from work of 12 months without pay. This he suggests could be a good way for seniors to ready themselves for the next life challenge.

Changing attitudes

Minister Wyatt uses the example of a sign he saw in an Aged Care facility, 'don't use Google, ask Nan'. The burgeoning population isn't a burden he reiterated. "We have got to harness the energy there," he said.

Uncoupling the attitudes around ageing is a big challenge ahead. "This is important for all of us to talk about, not just government," he added.

When challenged about the potential appointment of a Minister for Ageing, Minister Wyatt posed the interesting question of whether such an appointment would perpetuate ageing.

"Or, do you have every cabinet minister committed to encouraging people to think about longevity to 100 years," he said. "Sometimes when you put a label on an area, that label stays."

"In one sense I appreciate the point that maybe a minister for ageing may focus both the minds of Australians and the governments to build on what this government has commenced, and that is about recognising the inordinate levels of skills still in our seniors, the knowledge that still sits there," he added.

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