Australia has an ageing population and the data shows that as we age, we are more likely to experience musculoskeletal issues. Australians are living longer, as our life expectancy continues to increase. Those aged over 65 are termed ‘older Australians’ and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reports that this demographic is 15% of the population and this looks to increase to 22% by 2056 (1).
Older Australians are generally quite healthy and enjoy good quality of life. The National Health Survey highlights how three out of four older Australians report good, very good or excellent health, 39% of which report very good or excellent health. While Australians might be living longer and generally enjoy good health, are we getting healthier overall? AIHW produces health adjusted life expectancy figures which show that the number of years of full health are growing at the same rate as life expectancy, however, the years of ill health have not decreased or increased but remain steady. Only 35% of older Australians are sufficiently active and 72% are overweight or obese.
This shows the need for older Australians to be more active and to assess their nutrition. Australia’s Health 2018 reports how 16% of Australians had back pain in 2014-15, rising to 26% for Australians aged 55 and over. Back problems are more common for those aged 65 to 79, affecting 28% of men and 26% of women.
The health of Australia’s ageing population presents an important economic challenge and opportunity. The growing percentage of older Australians places additional strain on the government to provide care. It is in our national interest that older Australians live healthier lives and are able to care for themselves as long as possible Chiropractors, as primary health care providers are in a unique position to help manage conditions that are more likely to occur as people age, such as arthritis, lower back pain and other musculoskeletal conditions. Regular care can assist with mobility, balance and activity.
Australia’s ageing population means that more and more older Australians will be looking to their local chiropractor for care.
Dr Marslen will be attending this year’s Annual Chiropractors Association Conference in Hobart in October. The theme ‘Positive Ageing’, focusses on chiropractors as primary healthcare practitioners caring for Australia’s ageing population.