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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Businesses must evolve to cater for drastically changing needs of ageing Aussies

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The needs of today’s aged community, especially around living and employment situations, have changed drastically over the past few years, and businesses must get on board quickly to provide accordingly for our older population, according to an aged care design expert.

Annabelle Pound, a senior experience designer at national strategic design agency Designit, says in less than 40 years, adults aged 85+ will increase from 515,700 to more than 1.5 million.

“These statistics come from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety last year, but before that, many senior people don’t want to retire after 60, or can’t afford to, but face discrimination because of their age,” she says.

Pound says one way of better providing for aged people to work in an organisation is to understand, and then account for, any additional needs they may have.

“An interesting example of this is when the MIT AgeLab developed the AGNES (Age Gain Now Empathy System) body suit, pictured above, to put on people so they can feel what it’s like physically to age.

There is a need to explore how to empower older people, families, and medical practitioners to have conversations about ageing and aged living in order to plan ahead to enable ageing in place or transition into long-term care.

Designit senior experience desgner, Annabelle Pound

“The suit consists of elastics on the arms and waist to restrict movement; a neck brace so that a simple neck turn requires the whole body to move; yellow tinted glasses to lower vision quality and ear plugs to affect sound quality; and special shoes to cause imbalance.”

Pound says businesses need to provide for any of these additional needs while ensuring they are able to upskill and benefit from older people’s invaluable abilities.

Accommodation and living provisions provide another problem.

“At the moment, there are really just a couple different models of care for aged people in Australia, which are not completely effective,” she says.

“Not all aged people have the same requirements for their living situation.

“There is a need to explore how to empower older people, families, and medical practitioners to have conversations about ageing and aged living in order to plan ahead to enable ageing in place or transition into long-term care.”

Pound pointed to one example, Denmark where customised individual at-home care is provided, and aged residents are empowered by choice, autonomy, and control.

“Employees working in the aged care industry also need to feel empowered. Retaining and attracting skilled workers is essential to meeting the care needs of older Australians. Through the pandemic, the aged care sector experienced chronic understaffing, and additional labour tasks outside of their job descriptions among other pressures,” she said.

Pound said both functional and emotional needs are more complex in healthcare, so design tools and processes need to be flexible, guiding, and take a burdened user mindset into account.

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