GREAT HELP: Margaret Lee, Whiddon Grafton community care client and Rebecca Elks, community care coordinator for Whiddon Grafton.
GREAT HELP: Margaret Lee, Whiddon Grafton community care client and Rebecca Elks, community care coordinator for Whiddon Grafton. kerry wilson

FUTURE CV: Maclean an 'aged care hotspot'

AS THE baby boomers get older there will be some challenges ahead for the aged care sector.

The Clarence Valley population is significantly over represented by those aged 55 or more and in time services will have to grow to support residents at home or in residential aged care.

The numbers

Demographer Bernard Salt said the "diminution of the twenties and thirties demographic" led the number of those in the Valley aged 75 and above who required aged care services and facilities to make up a significantly larger portion of the Clarence Valley than average.

"The proportion of the Australian population aged 75-plus was 7 per cent, but in Maclean it's 21 per cent," he said.

"That is three times the national average, its an aged care hotspot."

Mr Salt also pointed out over the next ten years the age groups expected to grow the most in the Clarence Valley population were those over 70.

What this meant for the industry was that it would simply need to grow.

Clarence Village CEO Duncan McKimm did not foresee the industry "changing fundamentally from caring for other people", but acknowledged the "dramatic shift" over the past 30 years meant the industry should expect more in the coming decades, particularly as much of the baby boomer accessed the system.

"The baby boomer generation is a politically potent force, so I would hope that this progression will have been accompanied by serious consideration of what the community expects out of residential aged care and how the community funds providers to meet that challenge," he said.

The growth of home care

The shift towards a home care service delivery model would mean more people would be able to stay at home longer, reducing the cost to the state and benefiting people who could enjoy their home longer.

This model was preferred by older people and the federal government who had increased funding to home-care services and community care coordinator for Whiddon Grafton Rebecca Elks said it allowed for a more individualised and tailored approach.

"Social isolation and loneliness have such huge impact on people's well-being, so enabling and supporting connection that's meaningful to each person is incredibly important," she said.

"Partnering to help someone stay connected also ensures that they can continue being an active member of their community and of course, gives purpose."

However, Mr McKimm said Clarence Village had examined Department of Planning data which showed while there were three working age residents for every one over 70 in 2016, by 2036 that was expected to drop to 1.5, "at the same time as the need for home care staff will increase dramatically."

"This represents a significant challenge that will require either a significant adjustment to expectations or a significant change in the local economy to address," he said.

The type of house an older person lived in also impacted their ability to stay at home for longer and Mr McKimm said Clarence Village would continue to work towards their goal of being able to provide "more affordable and appropriate housing for seniors to ensure they can live long and happy lives at home."

"The extension of our Dougherty Villa aged care facility recognises the need for more residential aged care, but as we complete that project this year we will be turning our efforts towards affordable independent living." he said.

Navigating the system

As the system grows with need, learning how to navigate it was vital to ensuring the best outcome.

Solicitor director at Foreshore law Kerryanne Mackay said an important part of ensuring people weren't left unable to make their own decisions was removing the stigma around ageing.

"There is a real reluctance for people to put their hand up and say they actually need a hand," she said.

"If we can frame it in such a way that it is a clever thing to do, the help is available if you want to stay at home and you are entitled to it."

The aged care accredited solicitor had recently teamed up with Aged Care Architects to facilitate events which brought together industry stakeholders and Ms Mackay said she wanted to help the community understand the importance of planning ahead.

"Strategic planning is empowering and is about making choices now about what the future could and should look like," she said.

"When you are 75 or 80 years old and feel a bit wobbly or you can't keep up with the gardening and the like, there is no harm in getting an ACAT assessment and it's important to put your name on the list because there is a long wait."



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