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Don’t retire, take a gap year, says minister

Federal Assistant Health Minister Ken Wyatt has urged people to defer retirement and take a gap year to be a grey nomad before returning to work.

Speaking at an industry event in Perth yesterday/thurs, Mr Wyatt said Australia needed to encourage activity among older people as the nation faced the economic and social challenge of baby boomers reaching retirement.

The MP for Hasluck, in Perth’s east, who is also Minister for Aged Care, said he wanted to see baby boomers work longer and access their superannuation later.

“When I go to Europe or Asia, I find 87-year-old women still tilling the soil,” Mr Wyatt said.

“When I look at Australia, we become much frailer. We don’t encourage activity. And in the workplace, try to tell someone who’s turned 60 to try to get a job and they get told they’re over-skilled or too experienced.

“When we get to 60 and think about retiring, workplaces could encourage us to have a gap year from work, go and do the grey nomad bucket list, then come back and make a decision about retiring. I think that would change our mindset.”

After World War II childbirth rates soared, with more than four million Australians born between 1946 and 1961.

As more baby boomers reach retirement age, the Government faces an increasing problem of how to pay for aged care.

Another 82,000 aged-care beds will be needed by 2020 to meet demand.

Mr Wyatt told delegates at the Committee for Economic Development of Australia event that reform was under way to “take aged care to the next level”, with legislation receiving royal assent last month.

“One of the key components of our upcoming reform is an increasing choice in home care. Our reforms will provide options, flexibility and control for consumers while reducing red tape for providers,” he said.

From February, funding in the form of a “home-care package” will go straight to the aged person, who can use it to pay for a care service of their choice and change it if they wish.

The government then intends to combine the home care packages programme with the commonwealth homes support program, which provides community services to help people stay living at home, to create the integrated care at home programme from July 2018.

Melanie Kiely, executive general manager of social care at Silver Chain, said the industry was entering a period of unprecedented reform, but there need to be action to tackle the big inefficiencies of the health system more broadly.

“Not just aged care but this covers health more broadly, we “We need to have the discipline to take out the wastage,” she said.

“Let’s not have those 30 per cent in hospital that don’t need to be in hospital. Let’s try to create better systems, a better way, healthcare models, and work around the individual in the community.”

Mr Wyatt said loneliness was a big issue for elderly people, with 37 per cent of those in aged care having no family contact.

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