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The new middle age: NARI report urges new thinking on ageing

“They start to think that they are a drain on society and they talk about themselves in that way.”

This internalising of the narrative of doom and gloom surrounding Australians approaching older age is one of the key issues Director of the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI) Associate Professor Briony Dow wants political parties to tackle.

The call follows the release of a new NARI report called The New Middle Age: Ways to thrive in the longevity economy.

Its authors, including Dow, said every political party should actively and consistently counter the pervasive negative view of ageing and recognise the growing middle-aged population as a valuable economic and social resource.

The paper called for a new policy framework for Australians in the “new middle age” (50-75), who account for a third of the population. The authors want a rethink of cultural attitudes to people as they enter middle age and a revamp of how workplace, education, health and housing systems operate.

“There are currently seven million Australians aged 50-75 years who are facing an extended life expectancy in a volatile and rapidly changing economic and political environment,” the report read.

“Australia and its political leaders have an opportunity to take the lead in bringing the nation round to a more positive approach to longer life expectancy.”

To embrace the potential of this demographic group, the paper’s authors suggested cultivating more adaptable workplaces, encouraging life-long learning, promoting preventive health measures and building communities that nurture social engagement and intergenerational cooperation.

“The first step should be to change the language used,” they said. “Research shows we become what we are told we are. Tell people consistently they have no value and they will believe you. Much can be achieved by being positive and inclusive.”

Dow said governments have the opportunity to change the current narrative and to focus on broader ageing issues.

“I’d like to see both the government and the Opposition take up the call to really focus on this group, what the opportunities are, and the policies they can put in place to ensure better outcomes for all.”

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