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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Vic Govt’s four-year cross-department roadmap to enhance elders’ wellbeing

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Aged care reforms at the federal level are a necessity for ensuring older Australians can age well and with dignity, but what can the states do to further enhance elders’ wellbeing?

For starters, they can focus on four key pillars, according to a new, four-year roadmap released by the Victorian Government.

The plan, Ageing Well in Victoria: An action plan for strengthening wellbeing for senior Victorians 2022-2026, outlines the State Government’s vision to tackle the following priority issues faced by our seniors:

  • Social connection: supporting older people to have a sense of purpose through social, cultural and intergenerational connections
  • The digital divide: supporting older Victorians to take part in the digital world and ensuring those who can’t do not experience discrimination and can access services via other means
  • Reducing ageism and increasing visibility and appreciation of older people as valued and contributing Victorian citizens
  • Using healthcare advances driven by the pandemic to improve the health of older people and their ability to protect themselves.

According to Colin Brooks, Victoria’s Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, this plan and the resulting programs will enable Victorian elders to live more healthy, active and purposeful lives.

“We are ensuring senior Victorians continue to be appreciated, respected and supported to live well later in life,” Brooks said.

“I would like to thank the Commissioner for Senior Victorians [Gerard Mansour], members of the Senior Victorians Advisory Group and all older Victorians who contributed their experiences and voices to the action plan.”

Colin Brooks, newly appointed Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, welcomed the Ageing Well action plan, which will ensure Victorian elders are respected and supported to live well.

Tina Hogarth-Clare, CEO of Council on the Ageing Victoria (COTA VIC), tells Aged Care News that this plan is an important step in recognising the challenges and forms of systemic discrimination experienced by elders.

“The plan is a start to address disadvantage that many older Victorians face in their day to day lives in Victorians,” she says.

“It identifies areas that older Victorians need support and investment to ensure they can continue to contribute to their communities in a meaningful way and that they can live their best lives the way they want to and deserve to.

“All of the elements are equally important to achieve a just and equitable society in Victoria where older people are respected, and their rights are protected.”

Furthermore, Hogarth-Clare says she is impressed that the Government has committed to a cross-department approach to tackling the key challenges facing our elders.

“This action plan sits across government departments and shows how they impact older Victorians.

“It shines a light on the issues older Victorians face and how they can be addressed and ensures an all-of-government approach.”

Tina Hogarth-Clarke, CEO of COTA Victoria, says that the Ageing Well plan is a good model for other states to follow, the result of inter-departmental collaboration and deep consultation with expert advocacy bodies.

In particular, Hogarth-Clarke commends the policy development process behind the plan, which was informed by consultation with key local and nation-wide advocacy bodies — COTA Victoria, Dementia Australia, Australian Multicultural Community Services (AMCS), to name a few — as well as consultation with older Victorians themselves, done by Commissioner for Seniors Australians, Gerard Mansour.

“We deliberated and developed an issues list, which drilled down to the key issues across those agencies,” she says.

“It doesn’t cover everything, unfortunately … but elder abuse, loneliness and isolation and the digital divide were up there as top priorities.

One area suggested by a previous submission by COTA VIC, community transport, was unfortunately neglected in the current plan.

This came as a disappointment to Dr Danny Davis, CEO of not-for-profit service provider Link Community & Transport, which offers the largest community transport fleet in Victoria, as well as a variety of home care and social support services.

“Between now and November, I would like to think that they had some more incisive policy coming forward, perhaps as election promises of some sort,” he tells Aged Care News.

Davis contends that while funding for specific resource areas is helpful, the Government should be focusing on large-scale, systemic overhaul.

“The system is in need of holistic change … so whilst the objectives in the strategy are good, the actions have just come back to these small scale, point-by point-actions; there aren’t any systemic changes in there.

“For example, the fact that transport isn’t mentioned there is an outcome, but it’s really indicative of the fact that there’s nothing to actually solve the connectivity problems, connection to society, connection to community.

“There’s nothing to solve the access problems.”

Dr Danny Davis, CEO of Link Community & Services, says that the Ageing Well action plan is a positive move, but there are fundamental, structural issues in the state-based aged care services system that need work.

Davis adds that with the Victorian state election coming up in November, he would like to see the Andrews Government and the Opposition focus on older Australians as a key election issue.

“What I would recommend to any minister is that now is the time for some real strategic thinking about sector change and about sector leadership.

“It’s about changing the way that some of these [aged services] fit together and operate.”

Davis says that the Victorian Government should work to ensure reforms to state-level aged care services be properly mapped out, to ensure that they actually solve the problems at a foundational level.

“The biggest perennial problem is that the actions that an organisation chooses to do doesn’t match its objectives,” Davis says.

“The greatest organisational gap across all organisations is the gap between strategy and execution.

“They’ve got some executional pieces in there, but if that’s all that was done between now and 2026 we would have significant problems that would be unmet.

Accounting for the ‘future fiduciary’, a government’s duty is to ensure increasingly positive social outcomes for its citizens, it’s a key area of reform that Davis would like to see happen in government planning.

“Looking at social outcomes … asking are we optimally invested in our own future?

“If we did everything we were currently working on, would we be investing in things that are actually going to achieve the outcomes that we set ourselves?”

Hogarth-Clarke agrees that while the current plan is a great start, there is still a lot of work to do in structuring government planning so that it accounts for the unprecedented challenges of our ageing population.

“We believe a modern, civil society is one that is well prepared for the inevitable ageing of its population,” she says.

“It is also one that can start and continue broad discussion about the systemic changes needed to successfully manage an ageing society.”

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