Home sweet, and safe, home

An older woman sits in a garden. She is holding a glass of beer and smiling. She looks happy.Aged care is in the news and not for good reasons. But what do Australians think of aged care and ageing in general? A good question, and the answer depends on your perspective and your age. Regardless, we need to consider home design seriously. That’s because staying put at home is clearly the favourite place for older age.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety commissioned Roy Morgan to research perceptions of ageing and aged care across all age groups. This report builds on the research by Flinders University about quality of care. Both studies were conducted before the outbreak of COVID-19.

The research confirmed previous studies that older Australians prefer to stay put at home and if needed, receive aged care at home. This desire increases with age. This preference is also expressed in the priority for help in the home rather than health related services. However, younger people rated health services as the highest priority for older age. The implication is that younger people see ageing as a bodily health issue whereas independence and choice are top of mind for older people. That is, their quality of life.

There is much to unpack from this report which also looks at community attitudes and perceptions of aged care. Perhaps the most surprising finding was that few people knew how much the government contributes to aged care costs. Most thought it was around 50% but it is actually 78%. This report is well-written and there are little gems hidden in the data.

The unanswered question remains, “If older people want to receive aged care at home, will the design of their homes support their desire?”

The answer is no in most cases – not if they are to retain their independence. Many older homeowners are in the same home in which they brought up their family. When they bought it there was no thought about whether the design would support them in their older age. Consequently, if we ask younger Australians whether they want access features in their new home they are likely to say no. Few of us can imagine ourselves as being somewhat “lesser” beings – that is, losing capacity over time. That means all our housing stock is unsuited to ageing in place and aged care at home. Time for a change.

The title of the Roy Morgan report is, What Australians think about ageing and aged care.  

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