Ageing With Purpose

Ageing With Purpose
Ageing With Purpose

HEIDI DOUGLASS | h.douglass@unsw.edu.au

It was an engaged and enthusiastic audience that filled the auditorium at The Juniors yesterday, Wednesday, 31st October 2018, for the Aged Care Psychiatry Service, South Eastern Sydney Local Health District’s annual healthy ageing forum. 

With 15% of the population now aged over 65, the theme of this year’s public event was Ageing With Purpose which enticed over 580 registrants and had media icon and former Australian of the Year Ita Buttrose AO OBE as keynote speaker.  Other speakers were leading researchers in the area of purposeful ageing including Professor Henry Brodaty AO, Associate Professor Chanaka Wijeratne and Dr Karen Croot. 

During her introductory speech Ita Buttrose, who is a passionate advocate for ageing well, told the audience that she is a great believer in purpose and that the word retirement is not in her vocabulary.

The event, supported by the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA), NSW Health, Dementia Centre for Research Collaboration, The Juniors and the Waverley Council, sought to promote meaningful ageing.  A highlight of the free event was a delightful and inspiring purposeful ageing panel discussion chaired by Ita Buttrose with Australian celebrities Diana “Bubbles” Fisher OAM, Robina Beard OAM and 96 year old Bill Bishop; a study participant in CHeBA’s Sydney Centenarian Study.

Robina Beard, who is widely known as “Madge the Manicurist” from the late 1960s Palmolive advertisements informed the attendees during the panel discussion by saying she loved being 80 and that keeping active and busy was her antidote to ageing or loneliness. 

“I don’t do old age,” said Diana “Bubbles” Fisher who instead informed the group that at nearly 88 she carries on the same as she did at 40 or 50.

“Sit up, get up, go out and have some fun!” was Ms Fisher’s motivating message. 

Panellist Bill Bishop, who has three children and 9 grandchildren, provoked much laughter from the audience with his wicked sense of humour which has clearly kept him young at heart. 

The educational presentations focused on Being me: understanding and managing mood in late life from Associate Professor Wijeratne, Being heard in late life from Psychologist and CHeBA Research Officer Dr Karen Croot and Being visible in late life from Professor Henry Brodaty.

Regular speaker and audience favourite Professor Henry Brodaty said that many senior citizens can feel invisible and that a 2002 survey of people aged 60+ suggested 80% had experienced ageism at some point. 

A/Prof Wijeratne touched on the importance of recognising depression and distinguishing it from normal low mood.  He educated the group on the phenomenon that scientists refer to as a “set point” which is the average mood of a person which surprisingly stays fairly well the same as one gets older – meaning we don’t actually necessarily get grumpier as we age!  A/Prof Wijeratne told the audience that physical illness and depression do go together, and his key message was that there are simple strategies we can all employ regularly to prevent mood dropping as well as help us recover from a period of low mood, such as exercise, have regular checks with your GP and remember that alcohol has a mood lowering effect so to limit alcohol intake to no more than 7 standard drinks per week. 

The second speaker, Dr Karen Croot, gave the senior audience the tools to being heard in late life.  Her effective communication advice was the “Three A’s”:

  1. Audience – think carefully in advance and plan what you say depending on who the listener is;
  2. Attention – be conscious of picking the right time to say what you have to say; and
  3. Assertiveness – communicate in a way that your needs matter as well as the needs of the listener.  

Dr Croot acknowledged it can be difficult for people of all ages to be assertive in certain circumstances and that practising assertive communication was paramount for being heard. 

Ita Buttrose emboldened the attendees to focus on the many pluses with ageing.

“Older people know what it’s like to be young but young people don’t know what it is like to be old,” she said.  
Professor Brodaty supported Ita Buttrose’s statements and reminded all attendees that it is never to late to create meaning in one’s life through family, volunteering, socialising, spirituality, religion and personal development. 

“The future is an ageing society which gives us distinct electoral power. Politicians need to take note,” said Professor Brodaty.

All presentations from the Forum can be accessed at: https://www.seslhd.health.nsw.gov.au/ageing-purpose-2018

Representatives from the Benevolent Society, Little Bay Coast Centre for Seniors, Holdsworth Community and Junction Neighbourhood Centre gave information about the services they provide to the community to encourage activity and purpose for seniors, while opportunities were made available to join CHeBA’s Sydney Centenarian Study for people aged 95 and over or CHeBA’s CogSCAN Study for people aged 60+.   For more information contact h.douglass@unsw.edu.au.

Communications Contact

Communications contact: Heidi Douglass, Communications and Projects OffierHeidi Douglass
Communications & Projects Officer
T (02) 9382 3398
E h.douglass@unsw.edu.au