Author: Michael D. Breen

Sometimes what is missing is more important than what is sticking out like a sore thumb. In case you hadn't noticed lately politicians have been out to catch your eye, and your vote. Mostly they do this by offering money for what they consider you want or by offering money for what they are persuaded the nation needs. By the way it's your money they are offering.

They all go on as if Australia is an economy with people somehow tacked on. So the economy is painted like a powerful spirit which must be served and appeased above all else. We are not an economy, we are not customers of any of the three layers of government. Despite what they tell us and want us to accept. We are people who live in all kinds of groups with differing needs. We are a society made up of community groups, we are a people.

This 'economy' focus has been a successful distraction away from the two most important matters facing humanity. One is climate change and its effect on future generations. But leave that aside for a moment.

The other major world issue is the massive increase in the numbers of older people. People are living longer than any time in history. That, says the World Health Organisation, is the most serious matter facing every nation in the world. And last time I looked Australia was part of the world.

Our little Robertson Futures Inc Group exists to assist Robertson to be an AgeFriendly community. That is a community where people can stay at home as they get older. But that is only part of the picture. If we are to respect old age we need to respect all age groups in our community. Each group from the young, the teenagers, the parents and the older folk. Each group has special needs and wants and contributes to enrich the lives of others.

Developing an AgeFriendly community is a gradual long term project. The World Health Organisation outlines the aspects involved:the built environment, housing, social participation, respect, social inclusion, employment, ongoing learning, community support and health services.

Gradually, Robertson Futures Inc are hosting a series of forums on these matters. We want to open the dialogue about what people really want. So far we have had Doug Faircloth, Melbourne consultant to governments, talking about the Australian ageing scene. We have had a forum on transport and accessibility. There was a forum on healthy ageing. As we move forward we want to develop our understanding of the situation for all age groups.

On July 14th we are hosting, 'Dead Men Talking' a two man musical play featuring Henry Lawson (Max Cullen) and 'Banjo' Patterson (Warren Fahey). Henry says, 'It's been a long time between drinks!' (but he'd say that wouldn't he) and both poets are looking forward to sharing a few yarns, poems songs and memories with their

Southern Highland friends. This is an all age friendly show.

Saturday, May 11 Sydney Morning Herald has two articles pages 34 & 35 which have to do with AgeFriendly matters. One by Jacob Saulwich examines the job and pay for local government councillors. He says they have a conflict of interest between representing residents and ratepayers and directing the work of the shire. A panel of inquiry recommended to the NSW Government several reforms. These include improving standards of councillor conduct, direct election of mayors, significant professional development and increased pay.

Since Robertson Futures Inc was invited to present to the Wingecarribee Council on AgeFriendly work I would agree with the recommendation about professional development.

We were respectfully and courteously received and our request for an ongoing relationship to dialogue about AgeFriendly matters was agreed to.

However the overall impression of the event reminded me of a story from rural Ireland at the time of the change to decimal currency. An old lady was asked what she thought of the coming currency changes. She responded, 'Sure I don't tink it will take on in this part of the country at all'.

From responses to our presentation I doubted the Council generally had the framework or awareness sufficient to deal with social issues like AgeFriendliness. Despite managing multi material matters well there needs to be more inquiry and awareness to manage complex social issues.

It would be good if Council awareness could embrace AgeFriendly matters. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. As far as I can see Western Australia leads other states in this matter especially in rural areas. They can provide good examples models, training packages etc and they are the only state affiliated with the World Health Organisation on AgeFriendliness.

But whether or not Council steps up we can do a whole lot for our community. The most vital changes are in attitude, respect and friendliness and no council can command those. These matters are up to us.

Across the page in the Saturday Herald is the sad story told to the current Royal Commission into aged care. It is the story of a woman of 84 years living in an aged care facility. It is one of numerous tragic biographies across the nation.

'I live in an institution. No matter how many times they tell us it's our home, it's not. My answer to anyone who tells me that is; 'This is where I live but it's not a home'.' Merle Mitchell goes on to describe diminished life in a container unfit for its inhabitants. Merle says, 'There's just that feeling that this isn't a proper life-that the quicker it's all over the better it is for everybody'. Is that the treatment we want for people who have built our lives? That is the destination for most Australians unless we build AgeFriendly communities.

Robertson Futures Inc is a group of Karen Wilmot, Lyndy Scott, Neville Fredericks, Mark Turner, Sue Everdell and Michael D Breen. The group examines age friendly matters, runs forums on matters of welfare for all ages, and consults with local and overseas bodies with the future of Robertson in mind. The group will be seeking to develop working relationships with local community groups.