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Australia's ageing population and its impact on nursing

Australia's ageing population and its impact on nu
Photo: Ageing population
Thanks to rapid advances in technology and modern medical breakthroughs, Australians can anticipate a higher life expectancy.

In fact, people are living longer than ever before. But with longer lives comes an ageing population, and that means a significant rise in the number of elderly Australians.

Aging Population in Australia

In the ten years between 1999 and 2019, the number of Australians aged over 65 increased from 12.3 per cent to 15.9 per cent, with this number expected to rise even faster over the next decade.

While a longer lifespan might seem like good news, it brings with it a range of unprecedented public health issues, such as more chronic illness and mobility restrictions.

Increased demand for elderly care

These issues lead to an increased demand for elderly care, both within aged care facilities and at home. This will result in an increased demand for qualified nurses, specialising in aged care and the unique needs of the elderly.
Along with the ability to manage chronic illness and other physical health constraints, the role of aged care nurses is critical when it comes to the identification of mental health issues experienced by the elderly.

These conditions are often difficult to diagnose because symptoms can be similar to those of other cognitive conditions.

Depression and anxiety are particularly common, and that risk increases if physical health challenges or isolation is present.

Aged care nurses have a rewarding role

While the aged care sector undoubtedly faces some unique challenges, those working in the industry say its both rewarding and fulfilling.

For the elderly, the impact of quality aged care on their lives can be profound, and in turn, can have a similar impact on the nurses providing that care.

As well as learning from each individual patient, who may have different requirements from a clinical perspective, nurses often develop personal friendships with patients. Providing patients with critical support can be extremely rewarding.

Technology in aged care space

While Australia’s population ages, technologies also advance at an equally rapid rate.

Technology plays a significant and positive role in the aged care space, improving quality of life by promoting independent living and improving social connectivity. However, there is a growing need for nurses to successfully navigate these technological advances.

The Technology Roadmap for Aged Care in Australia, published by the Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council, identified a number of key changes in technology over the past few years, including:

  • advances in artificial intelligence and automation;
  • advances in blockchain and data analytics;
  • continued evolution of sensor technologies;
  • ongoing development of virtual reality and augmented reality; and
  • voice-activated technology.
     
According to ACIITC, technology-enabled care (TEC) supports the provision of health- and aged-care services, and encompasses telecare, telehealth, telemedicine, mHealth, eHealth and digital health, and is considered an integral part of the solution to many of the challenges facing the aged-care sector.

As technology advances, so too does the demand for health care professionals who are equipped to handle it.

Australia’s ageing population requires nurses with a specialisation in chronic disease and ageing

Australia’s aging population will require a healthcare workforce that is trained to meet their unique and complex requirements. Nurses need to be able to manage their aging patients’ physical and mental health needs, as well as the rapidly changing technology being used to enhance their care.

With VU Online's Master of Nursing, students can choose to specialise in Chronic Disease and Aging, empowering them to respond to these emerging challenges.

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