Could aged care strategists learn from the recent shift in climate change strategy once leaders
accepted that our lives depended on it and that we had no choice?
We wondered what a strategy for changing aged care would look like if we also had no choice. So,
we took the six legs of the new “now or never” climate change strategy and applied them to aged
First, we would need a very clear goal with an urgent timeline. How about “zero neglect by 2030”?
That’s neglect of the contributions older people could make in the workplace and community,
neglect of the need for income and housing that sustains a good life, neglect of care focused on
sustaining good health, and the rampant neglect of life quality in aged care.
We can already see the eyes rolling of those who believe neglect is not measurable. But those who
are neglected have no trouble identifying and describing it, and with a bit of co-design could pretty
quickly work out how to measure it.
Second, we would need to put a price on dependency-making, in the same way that climate change
strategy will put a price on carbon.
If we are going to run a society with services that make people dependent, then those who do this should pay the cost of it.
Because aged care profits from people being dependent and grows by making people dependent, it becomes very expensive once a price on dependency-making is introduced.
Then, just sit back and watch the much cheaper alternatives explode onto the “market”.
Thirdly, we would need to engage the whole community in the harm caused by neglecting older people.
We need a conversation that helps raise consciousness about the “wounding” that’s happening in this complicated “living-longer” life-stage, why we would want to change it, the massive impact on all of us of not changing and what we can individually do about it.
Just like the climate change debate, we should keep the messages simple, keep the issues humanitarian and
evidenced-based, present the economic advantages for change and incentivise householders and communities to install “thrive-ports". Just like we’ve taken to installing solar panels and batteries.
“Thrive-ports” will be commercially available packages of products and services, designed with older
people, that make our houses and communities centres of inter-dependence and contribution.
So, as individual citizens, we are able to invest in our own better futures and get the payback.
Fourthly, we would need to change the narrative about what exactly is prosperity for an older person.
The climate-change debate is merging the issues of the damage of over-consumption on climate, and on individuals’ life-quality. It is then introducing people to the idea of a better life with less consumption, and that this builds into prosperous communities.
Aged care has worked hard for a long time to convince us that life is good for older people when the
complexities of purpose are replaced by the guarantees of care.
The Royal Commission exposed that those who have experienced aged care don’t go along with this, and nor do their networks, but the royal commission also found that older people were much clearer about what they didn’t want than what they did want.
So, this narrative of prosperity in older ages needs to be encouraged through conversation, free of the influence of ageism and the empire and co-designed with older people.
Recognising that this is an emerging life stage that needs to be allowed to storm and form.
Fifth, we would need to drive the rapid development of innovation and technology able to deliver
“zero neglect by 2030”.
This will be mostly done by enterprises and businesses but does need to be incentivised by governments.
Incentivising could start with the alternatives to dependency-making, the private installation of home-based “thrive-ports”, and products and services that enable prosperity.
The time for letting “a thousand flowers bloom” is over. Incentives need to target the things that will deliver “zero neglect by 2030”.
Finally, we would need new leadership at all levels who sign up to being accountable for “zero
neglect by 2030”.
What climate change has shown us is that as we finally make a commitment to accountable change,
much of the current leadership can’t do it, don’t want to do it or are too conflicted.
And we’re now watching the difficult birth of entirely new leadership from everywhere else in businesses,
entrepreneurs, communities, local entities, start-ups, youth, women, modern elders and those with
lived climate change experience.
It would be tidy for the aged care sector to have a “zero-neglect” leadership development program, but it’s much more likely that the “zero neglect” culture will call for and shape its own leaders, and it will be their job to push the current leaders out.
We might like these current leaders and many of them are caring, but they aren’t committing to “zero neglect” and, like climate change, they will have to go.
The rest of us can signal our commitment by owning this and smoothing the path for
these new leaders.
We sat this strategy alongside the current strategy on offer from the government as a response to the
Royal Commission, and blessed by aged care providers.
Chalk and cheese. Which leads us to reckon that the current strategy has no hope of landing “zero neglect by 2030”.
Thank goodness we hear you all saying, because the only people who ever really wanted it will be dead by then.
Mike Rungie specialises in the intersection between good lives and aged care. He is a member of a number of boards and committees including ACFA, Every Age Counts, Global Centre for Modern Ageing and GAP Productive Ageing Committee.Do you have an idea for a story?
Email [email protected]