For those that missed out on the presentation by Chris Allison on our ageing population that followed our film tonight, the slides from the presentation are below:
The first slide shows the age-group changes in the Nelson-Tasman region between the 2006 and the 2013 census. The higher or lower the coloured bar (against a specific age group), the faster that age group is growing or shrinking. So we can see that we are losing people under 50, and gaining people over 50, at a rate of knots, especially compared to the NZ average. Some of this pattern is common to many areas outside Auckland, but for a while now our region in particular has been drawing more mature people from elsewhere in NZ.
The second slide is a general illustration of the pathways along which we can age - essentially we can age well (retain a high level of physical and psychological functioning) as represented by the blue line, or we can start to lose that health and functioning at various points along the ageing process - the brown line. For the most part that loss can occur through accidents, through inheriting genes that dispose us to illness, or through the onset of illnesses - especially ongoing or chronic illness. Accidents are often unavoidable, as are the genes we inherit, but many chronic diseases are termed ‘lifestyle diseases’ because they are more or less likely depending on our lifestyle - especially our diet, level of exercise, and smoking and drinking habits.
Slide three is why our ageing population - greater numbers of older people, and those people on average living much longer - is such a challenge for our health funding. What tends to happen is that people with chronic diseases get these at mid or later life, and the longer they live with these diseases the more expense there is for the health system. So the extra 20 years of life (dying at 90 instead of 70) won’t cost the health system very much more if we’re in good health, but it costs a lot more if that’s an extra 20 years of ill health.
Most of us start out with a level of good heath and resilience - a kind of ‘health capital’, and we can either add to that capital by taking care with our lifestyle (diet, exercise, smoking, drinking etc) or use that capital up by not investing (neglecting diet, exercise, etc). Eventually living off our early health capital means it runs out and we end up in health debt (illness), and when lots of us end up in health debt the the health system ends up in real economic debt trying to ‘bail us out’ with treatment. Not sustainable. Slide four is about the beginning of a high level focus on the extent of that challenge.
At present our health system is quite ‘hands-off’ in that it essentially waits for us to become sick and then aims to fix us. Given that treatment may be more difficult to access in years to come, because of the pressures the health system is expected to face, it’s in our interests to work on our own ‘health capital’ however we can. Exercise is a big component of investing in our health capital, and some of the common illnesses that exercise helps to prevent, or helps to manage or to slow, are listed in slide five. More is being discovered about the benefits of exercise all the time, so it’s a good investment!
The final slide gives the NZ physical activity guidelines for those over 65 (see http://www.health.govt.nz/publication/guidelines-physical-activity-older-people-aged-65-years-and-over for more info) and these are essentially the same for the general population. Cycling covers quite a bit of these activity requirements, and it’s more likely you’ll do it if you can make it part of a regular routine. Even better is to make sure there is some social component!