The website statistica.com has a chart showing life expectancy in Australia steadily increasing since 1870. A person born in Australia in 2020 can expect to live for 83.2 years (females 85.4 and males 81.5). Some enjoy good health in later years. 


My oldest patient passed away earlier this year at 104 and was independent to the end. Some predict that baby boomers will not accept the notion of ‘growing old’ in the same way previous generations have. Time will tell with the oldest boomers now in their mid-70s.

Dr Joe Kosterich, Clinical Editor

Aged care for those whose health and functionality has declined remains a challenge for society. Cabinet papers from 2000 revealed that the Aged Care Act was amended in that year following reports of residents being bathed in kerosene and that “the public had concerns about the quality of residential care”. Two decades on we had a Royal Commission which may end up being better at pointing the finger than providing solutions. Hopefully not.

This month, we look at aged and palliative care with topics covered including vaccination in the over 70s, how better nutrition can contribute to lower falls risk, the intriguing potential role of music in dementia care and a broad look at palliative care. There is a potpourri of other topics examined as well.

The elephant in the room, though, is our societal attitude to age. Whereas other cultures respect and seek counsel from their elders, ours does not.


A recent paper published in Lancet Oncology analysed data from 61 countries finding one in seven cancer surgeries (for 15 common cancers) were postponed by a median of 5.3 months due to lockdowns. Delayed surgery leads to poorer outcomes. The palliative care system may come under increased pressure over the next few years. There won’t be a daily update though.

An ageing population may put increasing pressure on an aged care system which already struggles. Innovative ways to keep people in their homes will be needed, together with an increased emphasis on helping keep people healthier for longer (as far as is possible). 

The elephant in the room, though, is our societal attitude to age. Whereas other cultures respect and seek counsel from their elders, ours does not. 

Australians over 90 lived through the Depression and World War II plus the post-war rebuild. These events shaped their lives and provided perspective.

Writing in The Weekend Australian, demographer Bernard Salt suggested an annual survey of those over age 80 as a “wisdom of the elders report”. The perspective and knowledge of those who lived through far worse than what we face today is an underutilised and undervalued asset, in my opinion.