What you need to know about ageing well
Ageing well starts with a plan
All of us are getting older. When we’re younger, growing older just means another candle on the birthday cake and perhaps hitting another life milestone. At some point, though, ageing takes on a whole new significance. We think more about the concept of ageing well and what that means to us. We need to think about what is important to us and put in place a plan for ageing well into the future.
What is ageing well?
Ageing well means different things to different people. For many people, it’s about being able to live in their own homes for as long as possible. According to a study by Apia, 97 percent of Australians aged 50+ want to remain independent by ageing in place.
It’s not just about being able to live at home. A survey of 5000 older Australians found that to age well, you need to have the right support, respect and a certain quality of life.
One of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies in history, the Study of Adult Development, found that people who are more socially connected to family, friends and the community, are happier, physically healthier and live longer than people who are less connected. The data also showed that those who feel lonely are more likely to see their physical health decline earlier and do not live as long.
How do I plan to age well?
What are some things you can put in place now to age well? When you’re independent and mobile, it’s important to think about how you want to live when you get older. You need to plan before a crisis hits.
Here are some questions to ask yourself about how to age well.
Where do I want to live?
Although most Australians want to age in place, are you living in a house that is going to be appropriate for you in 10 or 20 years' time? Are there stairs that will become difficult to use or will the excess space become too tiresome to clean?
Would you be better off finding a smaller place to live that is still within your community? Or could you look into a retirement community or over 55s residential apartment that might be better suited to your needs as you grow older?
Of course, you may not want to leave your home and that is ok too. But have a think about ways that you could maintain your independence at home. Will you need to install a chair lift or some grab rails to help you get in and out of the shower? Will you need some help to maintain the garden or clean the bathrooms? By planning now for your future needs, you’ll remain in your house for longer.
How will I support myself?
Australians are living longer, healthier lives but do you have enough savings and superannuation when you get to your 70s, 80s or even 90s? Although 2 in 3 Australians aged 65 and over receive the aged pension, will it be enough to maintain your lifestyle or will you need to make some changes?
It’s important to get financial help about how to age well before you get to retirement age. You could talk to a financial planner or get advice from Service Australia’s Financial Information Service, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s MoneySmart website, Australian Government’s LifeChecks website or the National Debt Helpline.
How will I stay healthy?
When we’re thinking about ageing well, prevention is better than a cure. We should all focus on ways we can make healthier choices. We know that exercise is important for our physical health as it can reduce heart disease risk factors, can help us lose weight and also lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and some types of cancers.
We should also try to eat well, reduce our consumption of processed foods and get enough sleep. All of this will increase our chances of ageing well in the future.
How can I stay connected?
Friendships and social connection are critically important to ageing well. How is your existing social circle? Do you have contacts in your life that you’re not connecting with or networks that you haven’t tapped into?
Start by mapping out your social network. Consider connections you made at different times of your life, connections you’ve made through friends or family members and contacts from your local area.
Are there people you haven’t caught up with lately or who you’ve lost touch with? Are there any existing relationships you could strengthen or past friendships you could reactivate?
Or are there opportunities to make new friends? For example, you could:
- Join a group in your local area, such as a seniors group or a club for a diverse range of interests.
- Take a class, such as a yoga class, or join some kind of exercise group.
- Schedule weekly face-to-face meetings with new friends who have common interests, such as discussing a book or playing chess.
- Reach out to community services if you need some extra support.
If you’d like to increase your online technology skills so you can connect virtually with people, you could look into the Telstra tech savvy seniors program, the Be Connected website, or take a class to improve your online connectivity.
What level of independence is important to me?
When you’re thinking about how to age well, you need to think about how independent you want to be. Do you want to do your own shopping and cooking, or is that something you’d be happy to accept help with? Do you want to keep your car licence as long as possible, or would you be ok to get some help with transport?
Asking for help when you need it isn’t a sign of weakness, it can actually help you stay independent in other areas. A study found that every hour of home care service received per week is associated with a 6% lower risk of entry into residential care. Plus, the more hours of care services a person received, the lower the risk of residential care entry.
How can I get help to age well?
If you’d like some support to help you age well in your own home, we can help. Our focus at Five Good Friends is to help people live vibrant lives in their own homes. We can talk to you about what sort of services might help you live as independently as possible now and in the future.
Want to know more about Five Good Friends? Get in touch with us or request a call back and we can answer all your questions.
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