HEIDI DOUGLASS | email@example.com
An engaged online audience of over 300 community seniors joined the Eastern Suburbs Older Persons Mental Health Service’s annual healthy ageing forum, held for the first time by webinar due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Mr Mike Gatsi, Service Director for Eastern Suburbs Mental Health Service, officially opened the 2020 Positive Mental Health, Positive Ageing forum and acknowledged that it was a milestone year for the forum.
“Thirty years ago, Professor Henry Brodaty founded the Older Persons Mental Health Service and has since maintained proactive promotion of good mental health as we age,” said Mr Gatsi.
He said that Professor Brodaty and his team had set a gold standard in mental health care while simultaneously working to ensure research findings were made available to all older people in the community.
How we define old should not be as a stereotype but as people who have had a diverse experience of life.
Mr Mike Gatsi, Service Director for Eastern Suburbs Mental Health Service
The event, supported by the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA), sought to promote positive ageing with a highlight being a heart-warming feature interview with 88 year old award-winning performer and Australian icon Toni Lamond, who spoke candidly with Professor Brodaty on Positive Ageing: My Story.
Toni Lamond attributed her resilience and her ability to deal with adversity to her capacity to find the positive in everything. Her message to the audience was to ‘never, ever give up.’
Co-Director of CHeBA Professor Henry Brodaty introduced The Hon Dr Kay Patterson AO, Age Discrimination Commissioner for the Australian Human Rights Commission, who gave the keynote address from Melbourne.
Dr Patterson paid tribute to former Age Discrimination Commissioner, Susan Ryan AO and outlined the vulnerabilities that exist for the senior community, including the risks for elder abuse. She encouraged people to open their eyes to recognising the signs of elder abuse.
Dr Patterson said that countering ageism is fundamental as a framework for positive ageing and promoted the need for seniors to set an example to the younger generation on how to live a long and fulfilled life.
“My role is to advocate the challenging of stereotypes that lead to prejudice - and in turn result in ageism,” said Dr Patterson.
“It is important that we accept the intrinsic value of all life, irrespective of age.”
With over 4,000 centenarians now living in Australia, compared to only 122 people over 100 years of age in 1976, demonstrates we are going to continue to live longer lives.
We need to be pioneers on the ageing pathway and set an example for the younger generation.
The Hon Dr Kay Patterson AO, Age Discrimination Commissioner for the Australian Human Rights Commission
Other speakers at the online forum were leading researchers in the area of purposeful and healthy ageing including Professor Maria Fiatarone Singh, University of Sydney Geriatrician, whose talk was titled Positive Ageing Through Exercise.
Professor Fiatarone Singh explained that she approaches her research by asking the question “How can we use exercise like the drug that it is - central to health and wellbeing?”
“Exercise has been shown to prevent risk factors and thereby prevent the diseases that follow, allowing us to age in a much healthier way,” she said.
Professor Fiatarone Singh also explained that exercise supports prevention of age-related changes.
Many studies over decades have shown that exercise can make you age more slowly.
Professor Maria Fiatarone Singh, University of Sydney Geriatrician
Old Age Psychiatrist, Professor Carmelle Peisah spoke passionately about Positive Ageing: Being Positive About Your Rights, challenging ageism and promoting human rights for seniors.
Positive Ageing: Mental Health of Older People presented by Professor Brodaty who noted the significant number of mental health issues in society, with a major study indicating that one in every two people had experienced a mental health concern over their lifetime.
He outlined that good emotional and psychological wellbeing were essential for positive mental health - and that reduction in all forms of stigma was necessary to ensure older people were confidently able to seek support for their own mental wellbeing.
Professor Brodaty said that he and his colleagues will continue to strive to overcome ageism and to improve medical care and access to care, with an ultimate goal of positive mental health for all seniors.
The forum finale was an entertaining and inspiring online movement session led by Gwen Korebrits, CEO and Co-founder of Dance Health Alliance.
All presentations from the Forum can be accessed at on https://www.seslhd.health.nsw.gov.au/services-clinics/directory/older-persons-mental-health-service/older-persons-mental-health-services-annual-positive-ageing-forums