Aging in Australian Society

Ageing in Australia national summit was held in Melbourne, Australia to address two major population issues, one on the declining population growth and the other on the ageing and retiring population (Stoneman 2002). According to current projections, Australia's population would be 25 million by the year 2050. By then, the average Australian would be 47 years old and 26% would be 80 years old and above. Managers have been aware of the trend for many years now. It has also infused pressure into government policies, affected the labor market and raised retirement ages. Yet virtually nothing has been done to handle the looming problem (Stoneman).

Studies showed that, interpersonally, people are highly attentive to age (McCann 2004). They celebrate or note significant transition ages. At 50, they markedly and increasingly receive "aging messages." From thereon, they selectively conceal age according to their gender and to whom they speak. They tend to judge others' social or relational roles according to their age. They perceive that romantic relationships between persons whose ages are disproportionate are unlikely to last or succeed. They also spend time according to the age of the person. Most of the age-identity researches conducted on older and middle-aged persons dealt with "active resistance toward aging," aging fears, age transitions and role, age identities and health, "ideal" or most desirable age, and denials of old age. Findings offered an alternative explanation to cultural identification in the form of a modernization theory. According to this theory, urbanization and industrialization in agrarian societies traditionally showed reverence and respect for older people. But urbanization and industrialization also outmode these values and replace them norms, which devalue these older people's wisdom and capabilities. Comparing cultures, young people of Laos may, for example, develop weak filial ethics and identify more with those their age. This would make them similar to the young people in Western culture today. That culture requires little social motivation to inhibit age identification. Culture may still remain strong, but with the introduction of Western media, the Internet and other revolutionary technologies, traditional ideas about culture and valuations of aging tend to continue and blur them (McCann).

A small group of 37 English-speaking women, aged 40-65, from western Sydney was interviewed on viewed their lives at that stage (Burns and Leonard 2005). The participants were mostly heterosexual, married with an average of three children, family-oriented rather than career-oriented and not independently wealthy. Australian women can qualify for age-tested pension at ages 60-65. Most of them had only a few years of schooling, married at 22 and whose children were born before divorce was introduced and legalized (Burns and Leonard).

Those aged 60-65 did not view their development as ended at 40 (Burns and Leonard 2005). All age groups related experiences of loss, stability and gain. But through their own actions, stress relief and role changes through the years made them gain more than lose. They admitted to various stresses in early adulthood, such as illnesses, heavy drinking, violent partners, disabilities and serious illnesses of children, financial worries, difficulties at the workplace, and troubles with relatives. All these were attacks on their self-esteem. But findings of this study and of regular surveys showed that the majority saw their lives as improved and their later life as satisfying. This could be attributed to the disappearance or reduction of the stresses they confronted in early adulthood. The provision for age pensions must also have infused in them a sense of financial security, which was absent in early and middle adulthood. They symbolized the success of traditional women's roles who married right, had harmonious relationships with their children, relatives and friends and developed many interests. They were able to change their roles smoothly (Burns and Leonard).

Most of them derived benefits from the disappearance of previous stressors mentioned, achievement of goals long sought, overcoming of losses, luck in marriage and religious beliefs (Burns and Leonard 2005). They offered a full range of reasons to view their mature ages as a good time of life. They generally found contentment in their present lives, characterized by community activities and their retirement support, an increase in collectivism and spirituality. With relatively low level of education and low-paying jobs in their earlier years, the participants now experience relative freedom from the responsibilities and worries, which plagued them before. Their current loss of social and economic status, income, structure, place and sense of purpose determined by occupation, do not present themselves as current issues to them. The view of other women who belonged to a more advantaged status may be different. These present participants may represent a limited group but they also benefit from living out the traditional feminine gender role. Findings of this study signify that what counts is the meaning people place on their experiences. This is strongly exemplified by the 60-65 age respondents. All of them had stories of losses but only a minority focused on these. This represented the admirable capability of older women to shift their view or emphasis from decline and loss to hope and gain. This finding should replace the old joke about older women's cultural stereotypes, which limit their life satisfaction and contribution to community life (Burns and Leonard).

Other older adults face the problem of care transitions. These involve a complex range of events and choices, individuals, priorities and options (Cheek 2006). They highlight the need to focus on the provision of particular services or supports. Even the best services, for example, will be of little benefit if the recipient older people are not aware of them. Findings of studies suggested the need to fit the service and support into the care transition. This explains why the support available for older people remains fragmented and confusing (Cheek).

The Department of Health and Ageing released a report, entitled a New Strategy for Community Care, in response to an earlier review of community care (Cheek 2006). It mentioned common arrangements intended to created a more efficient and integrated community care system. It would include a common approach to assessment, a consistent approach to data collection and consumer fees, standardized accountability and quality assurance and a coordinated approach to planning. However, what is acutely needed is for older people's needs and experience to become central to policy and service provision. The current range of services available to them does not correspond to their real and individual needs and preferences as they undergo care transitions (Cheek).

Eight focal groups of 4 to 12 older-people participants were recently interviewed on their quality of life in residential facilities (Edwards 2003). These residences were in and around Brisbane. The majority of participants interpreted quality of life as something attached to control and autonomy. Most of them were turned into the facilities beyond their control. At most, they could only choose the facilities. They could only compensate for the loss of control of their lives by proactively deciding to do something before their health substantially deteriorated. They perceived their autonomy as waning with the corresponding decline of their physical functioning, although the facilities addressed this problem. The participants considered family contact a very important factor to quality of life. They expressed joy with contact with family and loneliness without it. Other contributing factors to their quality of life in the residential facilities included staff behavior and the physical environment. Most of the participants perceived the facility employees as working very hand although they were sometimes understaffed. However, the participants found the employees as caring, warm and friendly in spending time with them. The employees appeared to spend less time recently than in the past. But the participants appreciated the mere fact that the employees were around to help. This created in them a sense of security, which they did not have when living in the community. The physical environment was…