Longevity and Ageing: The Sleeping Giants of Public Policy

May 6, 2007


The Sleeping Giants of Public Policy.

Increasing longevity will be the biggest social change in Australia over the next 30 years. It will change the way all Australians live, work and play, not just older Australians. Government has a critical role to play in ensuring these changes develop in ways which sustain prosperity, ensure fairness and offer dignity both for older Australians and their descendants. Yet we have only recently begun to consider the implications of this change. In the realms of public policy challenges, longevity is a sleeping giant.

The public policy task is to turn ageing from a threat into an opportunity, to enable citizens and institutions to create social and economic benefits from ageing rather than simply manage social and economic costs. This involves fundamental shifts in our most established social structures. We must rethink the notion of retirement, reshaping it from a binary condition into one of blended stages. We must build new service sectors which sustain the participation of older Australians in education, leisure and community while providing new jobs and skills for younger Australians. We must develop alternative models of care which rely less on large institutional facilities and more on decentralized in-home care supported by new workforces, design and technology.

Per Capita’s longevity project examines the societal challenges of longevity and develops new policy approaches for positive and healthy ageing. The aim of the project is to empower older Australians as they are living into their 80s and 90s by increasing their participation in society, their mobility and quality of life.

We will explore three distinct areas of the longevity challenge:

1. Healthcare and Quality of Life
2. Financial Security
3. Social Participation

The overarching question across these distinct research areas is: how do we maintain a high quality of life for a society which is living longer? This project takes a whole-of-society approach to the issue of longevity. The mental, physical, mental, economic and social wellbeing of older Australians empowers them to be real participants our society, not just passive members of it. This is important in a civil society where all people should have the opportunity to contribute regardless of their age.