Baby Boomers are embracing their “Me Generation” moniker more fiercely than ever when it comes attitudes towards ageing.
They’re the original protest generation, the rebels with a cause, and now they’re set to change the way aged care services are delivered in Australia.
According to a 2020 survey commissioned by RSL LifeCare, a whopping 76 per cent of Australia’s 5.2 million Baby Boomers (people aged from 58 to 76 years old) want to age at home assisted by home care visits.
The survey sampled a nationally representative group of more than 1000 Australians born in the post World War II cohort.
The research found Boomers were typically more professional, more tertiary educated, more active and have a greater life expectancy than any previous 60-plus group in Australia’s history. They’re fiercely independent, work longer, live longer and are renowned for their love of travel and generally enjoying life.
Charlotte and Graham Young are social and active retirees living in inner-city Brisbane. Charlotte, 74, enjoys coffee mornings after aqua aerobics and pilates, and Graham, 76, does swim squad three times a week and belongs to a men’s book group.
Pre-Covid, the couple enjoyed adventurous overseas travel and now regularly visit their children and grandchildren who live interstate.
The Youngs are representative of the “Me Generation” which is eschewing communal living currently offered by aged care facilities. Instead, they’re looking for tailored at-home care services, which will carry them through to their life’s end.
The Youngs are self-funded retirees who have embarked on the first stage of home care by engaging the services of a cleaner and a gardener. And every three months, they get their windows, gutters and ceiling fans cleaned and garden pathways cleared.
Their home is a single level Queenslander-style dwelling with a wrap-around veranda, a pool and subtropical garden.
Graham is adamant they’ll remain at home until they’re “carted out in a biodegradable cardboard box”.
“We want to age at home, but we realise that as we get older, we’ll need more help, and that help can be the basics: cleaner, gardener, shopping, pet care,” he says.
Charlotte adds: “We want to continue with activities such as book club, View Club and Probus but realise we’ll need help to get out there.
“We have a friend with late-stage Parkinson’s Disease, but with home care visits, she’s able to stay at home, which is wonderful for her. If we got to the same point, we’d do the same.
“This is our home, the place we love. Too often we’ve seen friends who have gone into nursing homes thinking that they need more supervised care, but they go downhill very rapidly, too fast.”
Graham agrees. Being able to recuperate at home after an illness or surgery greatly affects how quickly and well you recover.
“I think just being in familiar surrounds – mentally and emotionally, is very important rather than being in an institution like a hospital or nursing home,” he says. Not only that, he maintains it’s cheaper for governments if the elderly receive home care.
“We have another friend who had a really bad skin infection. He was only in hospital for a day, but he needs to have an anti-bacterial infusion once a day for the next six months. Having a registered nurse visit him at home daily is a much cheaper care solution than the thousands of dollars it would cost the government to keep him hospitalised.”
The Federal Government’s Home Care Packages program is a consumer-directed approach to care, which appears to be meeting the emotional, physical and social needs of Baby Boomers as they age.
There are four levels of Home Care Packages ranging from 1 for basic care needs to level 4 for high care needs. The Youngs believe that self-managing their own Home Care Package is more affordable than a nursing home.
“People think selling their home and assets to buy into these nursing home schemes is the answer to their care needs,” says Charlotte.
“But they seem to want to take a lot of money from you, and that eats into the nest egg we want to leave for our children and grandchildren.
“We’d much rather tailor our own home care package to suit our needs now, and then adjust it as we age.”