MIDDLE AGE VOTERS: Older Australians are looking for leadership in more than aged care.
MIDDLE AGE VOTERS: Older Australians are looking for leadership in more than aged care. ThinkStock

Wake up pollies, the new middle age is here

WELCOME to Australia's new middle age, which is about 25% of the voting population and are aged 50 to 75, but which experts say the Federal Government is remiss in supporting.

These older Australians are recognised by the National Ageing Research Institute as skilled and experienced. Many of them are highly educated, productive and healthy.

These are the voices that will speak out when the politicians go to the polls.

They are looking for leadership from the governments across key ageing issues, not just aged care.

NARI director Associate Professor Briony Dow, said its report, The New Middle Way: Ways to thrive in the longevity economy, which was released this week, presents policy ideas to counter government policy statements that are dealing with aged care, but not broad ageing issues.

"The challenge is getting it (the report) to a broader audience," Prof Dow said.

"Certainly, in the last Federal election there was no talk whatsoever beyond complaining about the cost of aged care and health systems."

The report covers four idea areas - work, education, health and community-building. It is drawn from the recently released Peak book authored by Dr Don Edgar and Dr Patricia Edgar.

"We have taken one step further, making it a specific policy document," Prof Dow said.

"We would like governments of all levels to take a lead in this area rather than being reactive and negative, to see the benefits of this middle ageing population and what they can contribute.

"I think it's the Federal government and the Federal opposition that really need to take the lead here."

The report starts with calling for a change in the language being used, moving to positive and inclusive statements.

"The new middle-aged are a resource, not a burden," the report states.

"Conflict will develop if this provocative negative dialogue is not stopped and the issues better understood."

While NARI's role is research and advocacy based on research evidence, it hopes the Federal and state governments will consider its recommendations including -

  • Reframing workplace relations for a longer working life. Rather than talking about retirement, the theme of keeping the wisdom at work should be emphasised perhaps through the gradual reduction of working hours, working days in a week, reduced responsibilities, rather than sudden-death retirement.
  • Recognising the need for lifelong learning through retraining, learning new skills, adapting to technology and industrial/social change.
  • Promoting preventive health measures which may include financial security, social interaction, purpose in life, access to affordable housing suited to the needs of different age stages, the richness of community interactions, ease of access and transport to essential services and family networks.
  • Building communities that counter intergenerational hostility and encourage community cohesion and cooperation.

The full NARI report can be found at www.nari.net.au.

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