On 25 January, the Council of Elders met via Zoom, marking the first time the 14 distinguished older Australians from a broad spectrum of backgrounds had gathered to discuss their ideas on ageing and the future of aged care.
The diverse group met with Ministers Greg Hunt and Richard Colbeck, introduced themselves to each other, and talked about their backgrounds, their areas of interest and their passions.
A communique from the session noted a strong common theme: “ageing well”.
A Council of Elders was in the top 10 recommendations of the royal commission, and has the purpose of ensuring older people have a direct voice in government policy development.
The council will meet monthly for at least the next six months, and then possibly bi-monthly.
Council Chair Ian Yates AM told HelloCare all members of the council are older people and have lived experience of ageing and aged care.
There was a great deal of “energy”, “optimism” and “passion” in the room on that first meeting, he said, as well as an impressive depth of experience, from First Nation members, to a representative with deep multicultural experience, to human rights advocates, to people with a range of professional skills, and more.
Council member Val Fell is a well known advocate for people living with dementia and for ageing well. She recently turned 93.
As she passed this milestone, she contemplated what she hopes the council will achieve for older Australians – and for herself as she grows older.“I want to be able to decide how I live,” Ms Fell told HelloCare.
“I will be able to maintain my independence until I get to the stage where I know that I no longer have the capacity to make decisions on my own. Then I can decide who the person [who can make decisions on my behalf] is, and who’s going to support me,” she said.
Ms Fell told HelloCare it makes her “happy” she is potentially making a contribution to the future design of the aged care system in her role on the Council, and the fact she is being consulted about aged care reform makes her feel “that my life has had … some meaning. I could help others.”
She continued, “I am happy that the Council of Elders will be able to put forward the views of senior Australians and that, as a result of that, notice will be taken of those views and incorporated into the formulation of the new Aged Care Act.”