by Tony Townsend
Is it really Government Policy to make older people pay until they no longer have anything left and then just let them die off?
Is this all part of a Government conspiracy to discredit and denigrate the elders in our community?
Unfortunately recent experience suggests the answers to both questions is a resounding YES!
There is an all-too-long a list of examples to choose from, such as the cut-off date of 65 for eligibility for the National Disability Insurance scheme or the chronic understaffing of Residential Aged Care facilities, especially when compared with Government mandated staffing levels for Childcare. Others include:
- Comment before and after release of Intergenerational Reports which labels “seniors a burden on society’. There has been no contrary comment from authorities despite the fact that Seniors continue to contribute positively to the economy, and would do more if Business recognised their capabilities and increased job opportunities. Indeed National Seniors estimates that contribution, both by workers and volunteers at $65.7 billion per annum. While a recent item on ABC The Drum estimates the annual replacement value of unpaid care provided in 2012 at over $40.9 billion or about the cost of the Aged Pension
- There has been much made recently by the commentariat fuelled by Media speculation that Older people were rorting the rules to access the Aged Pension. This was scotched by a recent Productivity Commission report, but the silence from Government on the topic is deafening.
- Introduction of ‘user pays” into Consumer Directed Care. and residential aged care has enabled charges to rise, sometimes for lower quality care, forcing those with limited income into hospital, where they are referred to as ‘bed blockers’, or to seek other less costly alternatives.
No wonder there is a surge in suicide rates as the population ages with Governments again failing to recognise there is a problem, let alone devoting resources to research the issue – like so many issues affecting the older generations that are swept under the carpet and ignored. Instead of welcoming advances in health care in the past century which have led to an enormous increase in the quality of life for the community as a whole, emphasis on the bottom line rather than the needs of the individual is having completely the opposite effect.
What to do about this and what is the role of the Media?
Unfortunately cost-cutting, re-organisation and a focus on the 24 hour news cycle have revolutionised the Media. Many outlets tend to parrot populist policies without the comment and critical research so much a feature of the past.
Public attitudes need to change. This can only be achieved if the community recognises, values and respects their Senior Citizens not just for their economic contribution but also for the wealth of experience gained over a long life. Governments need to take a leadership role in partnership with the Media to educate the people. And the media itself needs to face up to the challenge. It will not be easy.