Due to increased life expectancy, the older population is growing in Australia. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report that in 2017 one in seven people in Australia were aged 65 years and over. 
With this comes the demand for high-quality aged care. The Report of The Royal Commission in Aged Care Quality and Safety in 2021 recommended that the current home care package waitlist should be cleared and new entrants wait no longer than one month from assessment date. This would assist those requiring a higher level of care to remain safely at home.
The Royal Commission into aged care is an opportunity for change within the aged care industry and one that should embrace positive ageing and ageing in place. While to some ‘healthy ageing’ might suggest those without illness, the World Health Organization public health framework for healthy ageing includes the phases of declining capacity and significant loss of capacity associated with advanced chronic conditions. For people approaching their end of life these concepts, including the role of environment to enable functional capacity, are highly relevant and important.
Positive ageing and digital technology
The concept of positive ageing is one that resonates with me. Throughout my nursing journey I have encountered many older people that have a positive outlook and many that have not. The ability to remain positive when dealing with many of the issues that come with ageing, such as, changes in health, finance and housing can be very difficult. One definition has been proposed by Seniors news:
“"Positive ageing" is a term used to describe the process of maintaining a positive attitude, feeling good about yourself, keeping fit and healthy, and engaging fully in life.”
This concept sits well within the current climate of change that the aged care sector is about to embark upon. The Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council (2017) state that older people have identified key indicators such as independence, good health, security, and participation in family life as sought after when growing older. They believe that technology that is co-designed with end users in mind can assist in the seamless integration of technologies into aged care service provision. Such technology could equally benefit those with serious advanced illness who may otherwise become isolated or whose lives might become dominated by care-related appointments.
The Pew research centre report that U.S. seniors are more digitally connected than ever. Their smartphone adoption has risen 24 percent points since 2013 and 51% of seniors report having a subscription to broadband internet. Although this survey was from the U.S surveys in Australia indicate that for people aged 50 years or more 92% have some access to digital devices or the internet.
Yet, despite high levels of smartphone ownership there was a preference for accessing the internet using a tablet or computer as opposed to a smartphone. With that in mind, it is suggested that:
“Technology has the potential to make the experience of ageing more positive and to radically transform the way in which people receive services and supports as they grow older.” 
Ageing in Place
“Ageing in place” is a term used to describe the idea of older people remaining in their current accommodation compared with moving into alternative accommodation that might provide specialised care or residential aged care, despite the natural progression that ageing has on the physical and mental aspects of their lives. [1,3] For people to age in place positively, the service provision must be culturally appropriate and centred around the person to promote a positive, healthy, balanced, and inclusive lifestyle.
Having worked within the community care sector for many years as a registered nurse and case manager for people with palliative care needs and complex, chronic health conditions, the move towards a more technological enabled service provision is an exciting concept.
For the last five years I have spent time working for a community care organisation that fully embraces technology. I have been able to utilise telehealth services to support clients at home to reduce their need to go to hospital or residential aged care within the end stages of their disease. I have a passion for positive ageing and ageing in place and eagerly anticipate the impact that technology may have within this area.
Ensuring access to high quality information supports client and provider confidence and capacity for care planning and decision-making, and here technology can also help to address equity issues. I am looking forward to using my experience in contributing to the development of online support, for specific populations that face barriers to accessing care, as part of the CareSearch team.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. The desire to age in place among older Australians [Internet]. Canberra ACT: AIHW; 2013 [updated 2013 Apr 17; cited 2020 Dec 06].
- ACIITC. Aged care Technology Roadmap to support consumer choice and control [Internet]. Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council; 2017 [cited 2020 Dec 06].
- AHURI. What's needed to make 'ageing in place' work for older Australians [Internet]. Melbourne VIC: Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute; 2019 [updated 2019 Dec 10; cited 2020 Dec 06].
Kristina Walsh, Research Associate, CareSearch, College of Nursing and Health Sciences, Flinders University