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Quality of Life for Older Australians


Published: 22 February 2017

Cover image for article: Quality of Life for Older Australians

As a health professional, it is essential to deliver person-centred care that positively contributes to clients’ quality of life.

To do this, it is important to firstly understand what contributes to the quality of life and overall wellbeing of different populations.

As you likely are aware, the Australian population (like many other nations) is ageing (Browning & Thomas, 2013).

In 2010, over 13% of the Australian population was 65 years or older but it is estimated that by the year 2050, nearly 23% of the Australian population will be aged 65 or over (Browning & Thomas, 2013). It is believed that the number of Australians aged 85 years or older will quadruple between 2010 and 2050 (Browning & Thomas, 2013)! Thus, forcing the need to consider:

What Contributes to the Quality of Life of Older Australians?

To answer this, you could start with the World Health Organisation’s definition of health:

‘Health is a state of complex physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’

(cited in Browning & Thomas 2013)

Milte et al. (2014) found in their mixed methods study of older South Australian adults that participants respected social and health impacts on their quality of life. This indicated that the sample of 21 older South Adelaide day-rehabilitation clients placed high importance on the impact of safety, dignity, independence, health and psychological wellbeing, upon their quality of life.

McNaughton et al. (2012), suggest that 55 to 65 year-old Victorians’ quality of life is affected by obesity, poor diet and physical inactivity. The researchers acknowledge that healthy diet and physical activity are important also in the prevention of chronic conditions (e.g. osteoporosis, cancer and poor mental health) and possible decrease in the Australian burden of disease.

It is important at this point to acknowledge the issue of osteoporosis in Australia. The Osteoporosis Australia Medical & Scientific Advisory Committee (2014), highlight that osteoporosis and osteopenia were linked to 144,000 fractures in 2013.

‘Over the next 10 years, the total cost of osteoporosis and associated fractures is estimated to be $33.6 billion.’

(Osteoporosis Australia Medical & Scientific Advisory Committee, 2014)

Quality of Life for Older Australians

Abiymanyi-Ochom et al.’s (2015) study of Australians aged 50 and above concluded that low-to-moderate energy fractures can lessen health-related quality of life for up to a year (or even 18 months for spine or hip fractures)!

What Can We Do to Improve the Quality of Life of Older Australians?

Browning and Thomas (2013) suggest identifying the individual needs of the person, rather than assuming that they want a certain outcome. Furthermore, they (Browning & Thomas, 2013) convey the need to include quality of life measurements in evaluations by clients and in quality improvement activities. Lastly, Browning and Thomas (2013) portray that it is important to acknowledge the positive contributions that older Australians have made to society and encourage them to meaningfully participate with other Australians in social activities.

From the earlier mentioned studies, it is apparent that it may be wise for health professionals to encourage older Australians to live healthy lifestyles with good nutrition and appropriate exercises.

Preventing osteoporosis and obesity, as well as making older people feel safe and independent, also appears to be essential means to improving quality of life for older populations. It is particularly crucial that health professionals contribute positively to the quality of life of older Australians, due to the ageing population and burden of disease.

What will be your first act in the promotion of quality of life for older Australians?



Portrait of Madeline Gilkes
Madeline Gilkes

Madeline Gilkes, CNS, RN, is a Fellow of the Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine. She focused her master of healthcare leadership research project on health coaching for long-term weight loss in obese adults. In recent years, Madeline has found a passion for preventative nursing, transitioning from leadership roles (CNS Gerontology & Education, Clinical Facilitator) in hospital settings to primary healthcare nursing. Madeline’s vision is to implement lifestyle medicine to prevent and treat chronic conditions. Her brief research proposal for her PhD application involves Lifestyle Medicine for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Madeline is working towards Credentialled Diabetes Educator (CDE) status and primarily works in the role of Head of Nursing. Madeline’s philosophy focuses on using humanistic management, adult learning theories/evidence and self-efficacy theories and interventions to promote positive learning environments. In addition to her Master of Healthcare Leadership, Madeline has a Graduate Certificate in Diabetes Education & Management, Graduate Certificate in Adult & Vocational Education, Graduate Certificate of Aged Care Nursing, and a Bachelor of Nursing. See Educator Profile

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