Why Australia is calling for a National Longevity Strategy
Definition: A person’s longevity is ‘the rest of his life’.
Longevity is a holistic term covering the “time basis for everything” in a person’s life.
Most of the terms we associate with longer lifespans have negative connotations. Consider aging, retirement, retirement, elder care, age discrimination, home care, seniors, frailty, retirement and end of life. While each has specific relevance, one term to cover them all frees us to consider the whole framework – the good ones and the challenges – before focusing on the parts.
The definition begins with the person. We become more different from each other over time. Our own remaining period is unique. By focusing only on the longevity of the “community”, we lose sight of how different we are and how different we react.
A national longevity strategy will focus on maximizing the social and financial benefits of:
- understand and help people in their 40s to get the most out of the rest of their lives by raising awareness about personal longevity
- development of a conscious and proactive longevity community
- harmonize the activities of government entities involved in longevity support
Where we are
At the end of 2021, there were 4.3 million Australians aged over 65, around 16% of the population. Five-year cohorts over 65 are growing the fastest in the overall population, averaging 3.5% last year. No other cohort grew faster than 2.5%.
A huge longevity bonus accompanies this growth. The average life expectancy continues to increase. Half of the oldest baby boomers alive today (age 75) will likely live at least 30% beyond their life expectancy at birth and beyond age 90.
However, the longevity premium runs out of steam beyond age 90, where successive cohorts live less long than their predecessors. We are facing a growing traffic jam of older Australians – most of whom will still live much longer than expected at birth, but with more demanding support.
The crisis in elderly care remains unresolved, creating major uncertainties in the elderly community about their future. The pension system encourages people to ‘retire’ at 67, when at least half who reach that age will live into their 90s, most of them independently. While community unemployment is at historic lows, employment for older people is not increasing with demographics.
Large sums are spent on finding better medical treatments for older Australians, but very little on prevention. Healthcare professionals struggle to move beyond immediate patient issues to effective preventative health and wellness support. The hospital system is completely stretched with little prospect of relief even after the pandemic as the aging population increases.
Investment products and services are increasingly complex. Advisors are required to provide expensive and detailed assessments that are becoming even less accessible to many consumers. The Australian Law Reform Commission recently strongly criticized this trend.
Gender imbalance is a distinguishing feature of increased longevity. Women live longer and are generally more dependent later in life. Women are generally the caregivers and outlive their partners, with less likelihood of self-care themselves. Women are less likely to accumulate retirement pensions, constrained by raising children and diminishing employment opportunities.
Ethnic inequalities are characterized by the shorter total and healthy lifespan of these minorities. A national longevity strategy would clarify and provide cohesive solutions to many challenges.
Consumer groups like COTA and National Seniors are making a major contribution, but need more support.
where we could be
We face a growing challenge of treating larger and less healthy numbers of people in the late 1980s and early 1990s. However, social and medical research reveals how existing services, products and facilities could be much better aligned to improve their delivery to seniors and reduce costs.
Research on longevity is evolving very rapidly to better understand aging. It is increasingly likely that we will see real solutions to dramatically extend lifespan and quality of life at older ages. If this happens, it will change the aging paradigm upon which current responses are based.
Both of these opportunities require better oversight and major improvements in how and how quickly we approach increasing longevity in the community and personally.
National Longevity Strategy
A national longevity strategy is urgently needed to effectively address the growing challenges and opportunities of increasing personal and community longevity, with bipartisan support.
Distinct silos of interests (both within government and in the private sector) have developed strongly to deal with this phenomenon, but can work together much more effectively. A national longevity strategy will mobilize all available capacity and financial resources to make the most of the remarkable community and personal longevity bonus. It will allow significant savings to be made.
To achieve this, the Strategy will build on the activities of:
- Treasury (demographics, retirement, taxation, financial advice)
- Social services (old age pension, home equity release, disability)
- Employment (age discrimination, retraining)
- Health (including doctors, other health care providers, health funds and researchers)
- Elderly care
- Financial planning and the legal professions
- Federal and State Governments
- Pension funds and other providers of financial products
The main focus will be on improving the longevity awareness of people over 60, as well as improving the understanding and support of their health and financial advisors.
As a society, we are responsible for the remarkable phenomenon of longevity. A national longevity strategy will inspire Australians to make the most of it in every way.