Naima: What do you think is the difference between becoming elderly, and becoming an elder?
Sally Rees: I guess most simply, ‘elderly’ is an unavoidable state of being, whereas ‘elder’ denotes a role. I see a powerful community role to be filled by elders, but it needs to properly acknowledge being ‘elderly’—the wear of ageing on the body and mind are somewhat inevitable and need to be accounted for and supported.
I believe a better support system for our ageing population must be devised at a Governmental level. It often seems the Government’s vision of what it means to be elderly is based on their own, very privileged and limited experience. That they don’t recognise, or they find rare the idea that someone might not have much Superannuation (if they’ve worked for themselves or in a gig economy or that they are prevented from regular work by disability) or that they might not own their own home, or have family who are in a position to look after them.
I’d love to see the pension revert to an earlier age of entitlement (or a complete welfare conversion to a Universal Basic Income – either or), investment in affordable housing (both for rent and in getting more people into their own homes), greater Medicare coverage including optical and dental, generationally inclusive social hubs, subsidised gym memberships for older people and subsidised further education. Decent, inexpensive broadband, delivered with simplicity, for those becoming less mobile to be able to reliably access these things too. I’d also really like to see female elders, as a desired inclusivity target in all cultural programming.
You didn’t ask me about those things but it’s part of my personal approach to my own ‘croning’ to challenge our systems of Government to be better whenever I can, and this kind of support is actually what will make the most significant difference in allowing ‘the elderly’ to also own their immense value as ‘elders’.