Recently, Bay & Basin Community Resources (BBCR) and ExSitu were finalists 2022 innovAGEING National Awards in the in the Improving Consumer Choice category. We were fortunate to co-create a hybrid community initiative co-created by Bay & Basin Community Resources (BBCR). We talked about everything from gardening through to care plans and end-of-life with that project. And we covered off the online and offline events world to make it happen.
We didn’t win the award. But we won in many other ways. It helped connect us to a wonderful bunch of people associated with BBCR. It also helped us look at what it takes to age well these days.
Here are some insights we gleaned from the experience. And why it was a reminder we all need community to age well.
Aged care is changing
The aged care system is drastically reinventing itself right now. It’s partly because of the Quality Assurance standards. But it is also because the Boomers are demanding change. The vision of communities living meaningful, healthy and productive lives through the provision of person-centred services is what they want. But more than that, it’s so important they won’t settle for less.
Instead of aged care facilities providing care as the single focus, the emphasis is on lifestyle. It’s also about ageing well in a preventative manner. Moving away from the idea aged care steps in after a physical or mental decline occurs is the way of the future. Instead, it’s used alongside what a person wants, values and sees as their future.
It’s (finally) about linking in with resources not out of necessity but as a measure of preparedness with a dash of prevention mixed in.
It’s on trend to articulate the care needs of elderly Australians in care plan format. That way, we can ensure that each individual receives the customised, tailored care they deserve as they age and/or approach end-of-life. This project was proof of that.
We want to know more
For a very long time, the drum to beat in healthcare, mental health and aged care was “awareness”. There was stigma, there was a lack of conversation and people even hesitated to mention disability, disease, illness and ageing out of almost superstitious fear.
When we first started ExSitu, we had to work hard to engage aged care professionals and the people on the receiving end. The system itself was in a state of flux and in desperate need of overhaul.
That overhaul has come in many forms:
· The aged care system has undertaken major reforms and continues to do so now
· People are defining what ageing well means to them through customised care plans
· The conversation is maturing along with the audience’s wants and needs. As it should. Why should we lose our spark and identity when we age?
Ageing lifestyles are in vogue. People are championing the cause through social media influencer movements like “Ageing Disgracefully” or “Boomer Travel”. Lived experience is a cornerstone of discovery. Just look at the discussions surrounding menopause or dementia that are gaining traction.
Even if ageing well scenes are not to your taste, hearing from people and their experiences is much more useful than reading a brochure or someone’s cranky Google review. We want to hear authentic voices and promote conversations that matter. And that share what we need to know about ageing well or the ageing experience.
We’re talking, online and off, about the experience we want. And this not only increases individual awareness, it’s also shaping the experience of ageing well for elderly Australians on a consumer product and marketing level.
Values shape the experience
It’s no secret ExSitu believe the reduction in stigma is due to preserving the individual and their autonomy through values-based care.
We’re promoting prevention and preparedness instead of the old model of avoidance and finding yourself without choices and options. It’s no longer “you’ve arrived at old age, now what?”
And that means promoting wellness and well-being through discussions, activities, connectivity, rights-based care and placing the individual at the centre of that care.
But putting your rights foremost doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
To provide true person-centred care, you need to:
· Understand what services are available to you
· Work with formal and informal carers to support a variety of offerings
· Find the budget and the time to support the care plan that suits you
· Negotiate the wants, desires and needs you have, especially if you have to consider influences and dependencies such as location, budget, service availability and so on
· Stage your wellness like any project to support you as you age
· Accept digital literacy is part of ageing well
All of this requires research and support. It also means researching available services, dealing with people in medical, psychological and financial roles. And it includes aspects like self-research and digital education which may require learning new skills. Or adopting an attitude of self-advocacy and confidence you may not have thought necessary in the later stages of life.
Asking for help and finding allies is a huge part of that, no matter what form they take. And again, that’s not something you can do completely in isolation.
Community is a reality
People are tired of living solo, siloed lives. They want to connect with their neighbours, feel supported and connect as they do so. Connection is so important, they are now trialling slow lanes at supermarkets overseas to give elderly people someone to chat with. We’re opening the doors of aged care centres to generational change by inviting the kids and the pets in.
It’s happening online, too. Facebook is increasingly finding itself home to Baby Boomers who are setting up their community groups and having a chat based on shared interests, causes, and hobbies. We saw it in action when we saw residents of BBCR join the online community platform and begin interacting with each other. We see it in action every single day with the communities formed and forged online across a wide variety of pride movements.
And it’s great to see. Because it means that where there is no family, there is coverage. Or if there is physical distance or disability, they can still deliver some kind of care. And it also means the more we decide what experience we want as individuals, the more we will model this care and gift it to our communities.