There’s no place like home

With the 21st enquiry into the aged care system about to commence what will be different this time.

While we know review and re-assessment is required to help us define the problems, what we also know is that in a previous 20 enquires, the outcomes have always identified the same issues.

If we already know the challenges we face with an ageing society, then how do we shift the focus to be about collectively creating better solutions for people in our communities as they age.

Coupled with this is the familiar argument of ‘we need more workers’, which doesn’t actually address the problems we face. We need to find new ways to create a workforce that allows for government funding and investment to go further, while providing quality care.

This is not about increasing institutional care, it about how we increase our capacity as a society to care for older people in our community.

So, in a complex system, how do we transform how we deliver aged care because we already know Australia will struggle to meet the needs of an ageing population and their expectations if we keep trying to do more of the same.

There are a range of things people need in their life. The key is including real choice and control to manage their wellbeing and health. All people need really deep connections in their life so that they find purpose and meaning and support when they need it.

Choice, connection and purpose contribute to overall wellbeing as we age while also facing ageing related decline.

Demand is already outstripping supply of our current aged care system, and there will not be enough taxpayer funding to grow the current system to meet that demand.

Everyone has a story

Working across this issue at The Australian Centre for Social Innovation, we feel the solution lies in increased options for providing care in the home as we age, and we currently have three options we are exploring for better lives and care as we age.

For some time, we have been conducting a feasibility study to establish a ‘Shared Lives’ model of care that is growing across the UK and Scotland. Shared Lives is where people turn their homes into places of care with individuals linked to families for respite which can eventually lead to full time co living.

This approach taps into a wealth of community knowledge and resources that currently exists and is about creating a new workforce, utilising individual’s homes as places of care and supporting them to do so.

We also have an open sourced program ‘Weavers’ that is now being implemented in six communities nationally. In the program people who have been family carers support people who are in the thick of caring, so that they can continue their roles.

In Australia currently one in five people will be a carer at one point in their lives. This also impacts on the aged care system as current supports for carers are lean, and unless we address this we know that family carers that can’t keep caring for family members then have to opt into the aged care system. This program places supports around carers so that they are able to keep loved ones at home.

We also run an Innovation Challenges in partnership with the Office for the Ageing (OFTA) called Better Neighbourhoods Innovation in Ageing Challenge. The purpose of the challenge is to identify and offer support for ideas that improve the lives of older people as we age.

This year the challenge focussed on how we can support neighbourhoods, because we know the role of community as we age is increasing in significance. Currently the way our neighborhoods function isn’t supporting all people to age well.

We need a national approach and the engagement of a community of partners to help build these and many more solutions for the future of an ageing society. As we study the challenges we face it becomes obvious that there is not one silver bullet. It is less about commissions and more about collective action, and investing time and resources into coordinating multiple options that will address this pressing issue.

The Australian Centre for Social Innovation explores new and better ways to build social and economic prosperity for all.