Ita Buttrose AO OBE

All through our lives most of us think ahead.  We have a plan for all the things we want to do – jobs and career, relationships, buying somewhere to live, having children, travelling, all sorts of things.

Having a plan is common sense really because it allows us to have some control over the direction in which we’re heading.

But as we age, for some strange reason, our thinking seems to change. Many Australians fail to plan for their older years and consequently often deny themselves the quality lifestyle that they’ve anticipated.

None of us knows what the future holds for us as we age. We hope for the best. We tell ourselves that we’ll be able to deal with whatever cards fate deals us but life is never predictable. It likes to take us by surprise.

Many older men and women are woefully underprepared for the last 20-30 years of their lives. Failure to plan means that they leave themselves with few options if, for instance, their health fails or they have a fall resulting in them having to use a walking frame or if they are declared medically unfit to drive.

I hate to think what it would be like to have to give up my driver’s licence and the independence that it gives me. What would you do if that happened to you?  If you planned ahead you’d make sure you were living near easily accessible public transport, the local shops and a medical centre.

When we turn 60 is a good time to develop a check list to determine how we want to live as we age.

Good advice about financial planning has to be on the list of course but so too does the need for social interaction. Enjoying social activity is a must. Social isolation is not good for anyone’s wellbeing.

Maintaining good health, both physical and mental, has to be another priority. Having regular check-ups is essential and so too is challenging  your brain with things it hasn’t done before like learning another language, taking up a new sport or reading a book on a subject with which you are not familiar.

Not surprisingly most of us what to age in place and stay in our own homes. For some that just isn’t possible but most of us, if we plan ahead, can achieve this particular goal although sometimes we might need a helping hand.

Having someone to help with light housework, showering or dressing, transport, nursing, shopping, and social support can make all the difference to an older person’s lifestyle and happiness.

A recent study done by Macquarie University in Sydney showed that home care services can help keep people out of aged care facilities. It found that each additional hour of home care services received each week was associated with a six per cent lower risk of entry into permanent residential care.

What great news! Having greater access to community care services may be an effective way of supporting older Australians to remain in their own homes. When you are drawing up your plan for getting older make sure you factor in home care services. I know I will.

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