Home | Specialty Focus | ‘The times they are a-changin”: Concerns among providers as baby boomers enter care

‘The times they are a-changin”: Concerns among providers as baby boomers enter care

The rapid approach of baby boomers entering aged care homes 'unwillingly' looms as experts say they'll be a force to be reckoned with.

Born between 1946 and 1964, the post-World War II generation has not been shy in voicing their discontent with the system, which last year's RSL LifeCare survey underscored.

Only 3 per cent had said they would move into residential care under the current format.

Liz Gill from the University of Sydney has extensively researched aged and consumer-directed care and anticipates boomers' needs will significantly pressure the sector.

She says they prefer to maintain control and will make demands based on what they will and will not accept.

"They've been very vocal about the fact that the current system is unacceptable to them," Gill says.

"And since the ones born in 1946 are now 75 years of age, they're rapidly starting to become the market."

The financial prosperity of baby boomers, who have reaped the benefits of a thriving property market with low-interest rates and free education, often stirs envy among younger generations.

Gill says they'll continue to expect high living standards when moving into aged care homes, which may strain the already stretched sector.

Providers and staff have expressed concerns about what servicing baby boomers will look like, considering they'll likely insist on what they consider their rights. 

They fear the entry of boomers will result in a loss of control in homes.

According to Gill, only specific changes to the sector will resolve the impending issue, which must focus on empowering boomers to self-determine and self-manage.

"We tend to think of aged care services as a sort of a box – about what they look like and how they'll be delivered," she explains.

Yet she also points out that 82 per cent of boomers want to live at home for as long as possible.

"We've built all these care places; the developers are all out there with money and investing, all the while believing boomers will end up there because they are a huge market and they expect to make money [from them].

"So, what will it mean to aged care providers and the market when boomers don't want to enter aged care homes under the current set-up?"

The group consisting of 5.2 million Australians is characterised as being independent, astute, resourceful, forthright and exacting, Liz says.

It's an outspoken generation that protested against the Vietnam War in the 60s. Their strong work ethic and competitive, goal-focused nature have laid the foundation on which Australia's modern technology-driven society now thrives. 

"These are the people that created a lot of the stuff we use daily in society," Gill says.

"Some of the main drivers and changes in society are attributed to them. "They created Wi-Fi, laptops and all this sort of technology that we're using now."

Despite their age, boomers are slow to replace the current generation in residential care, as over 90 per cent reported to be in good health.

Contrary to the boomers, the previous generation is associated with a silent and accepting demeanour.

Gill says the 'Silent Generation', born between the Great Depression and World War II, has quietly accepted the aged care sector in its current form.

"They're very different to the generation that precedes them.

"As parents of baby boomers, they are classified as being adaptive and accepting and not questioning authority. 

"Whereas the baby boomers have actually turned society upside down."

The notion that "baby boomers are certainly not frightened to speak up" does not only have negative connotations, according to Gill.

"I believe what's happened with the Royal Commission into Aged Care, in a previous time, would never have happened.

"In this aged care system, we're seeing things happening that are totally unacceptable. 

"I think elder abuse happened before, has been happening over earlier times, but it's never become something that's come to the forefront until the baby boomers said this behaviour is unacceptable."

The latest Royal Commission's Report revealed that sexual assault in aged care homes was still highly prevalent and is estimated to be vastly underreported

Gill says that fundamentally changing the aged care sector needs to start by addressing ageism.

"We've gone from a society before the baby boomers, where ageing was seen as a positive thing; where you had wisdom and skills and could contribute to society.

"Age was seen as a good thing, like aged wine.

"Now, we're seeing ageing as something undesirable – we've medicalised it, which is part of the problem. It's seen almost in line with a disease. 

"But it's not a disease; it's just part of the normal process of life because it's the cycle of life, and you mature."

While Liz highlights the need to rethink the aged care sector, she's seen a change already on its way.

"The institutionalisation of ageing is being treated exactly the same as we had with the institutionalisation of disability or mental health 30 years ago," she says.

"That whole model has been overturned and changed, and I believe that with aged care, we're going to start to see that unravelled as well.

"But it's all going to depend on what the baby boomer cohort will do."

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One comment

  1. Seriously if they are healthy there is no place for them in aged care!!

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