Aged care burden carried by women, study shows

Flinders University

Friday, 08 March, 2024

Aged care burden carried by women, study shows

Nearly 60% of the world’s population over 60 years of age reside in the Asia–Pacific region, which amounts to 630 million people, according to the United Nations. This population is projected to reach 1.3 billion by 2050.

Women make up more than 60% of the older adult population in this region, where the challenges associated with one of the fastest ageing population clusters in the world are quickly emerging in terms of social, political, healthcare and economic significance.

A major new report led by Flinders University, published in Frontiers in Public Health, takes a look at how Asia–Pacific countries — ranging from low-income to middle- and high-income economies — are managing major issues relating to globalisation and westernisation of care to reshape conventional approaches to older adult care.

“In many cultures, particularly those in the Indian subcontinent, China and South-East Asia, there is a deeply ingrained tradition of venerating older adults,” said Dr Madhan Balasubramanian, from Flinders University.

“Our research reviews look at how service redesign, training for providers, community, home-based care and the adoption of global frameworks are helping to address the contemporary needs and expectations of older adults in keeping with culturally rich traditions.”

In general, older adults exhibit higher prevalence of chronic conditions, comorbidities and hospital admissions, which in turn elevate healthcare costs.

Flinders University Dean of Business Associate Professor Angie Shafei, who contributed to the study, said older women could face great pressure on their health and wellbeing because the traditional role of women in many societies in the region is as family caregiver.

“Gender imbalance has implications for social support and healthcare systems, given that women typically have greater life expectancy and can face more years of potential disability,” Shafei said.

“Traditional models of health workforce development and service delivery are less likely to be effective in addressing the growing concerns if the focus remains centred on specialised and tertiary care.

“It is essential to strengthen primary and community-based models of care that cater to the growing needs of and are sensitive to cultural contexts, local challenges and specific requirements of older adults.”

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