Differing experiences

No matter how we define older age, it is important to understand that older people are not a single group. Their experiences and needs can be very different.

The needs of the new old (60-65) are quite different from the middle old (80) and very different from the old old (90-100+).

The needs of older people just diagnosed with HIV will be very different to those who are long-term survivors. Even the definition of long-term survivor has changed!

We have already considered that ageing is a process. Ageing is not just about living longer. It is also about living well. We will explore living and ageing well in the next lesson.

The concept of healthspan is perhaps just as important as consideration of lifespan.

Our healthspan includes health and wellbeing as well as what a person can and can’t do (functional status) and a person’s quality of life.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare considers three phases of life after 65:

  • Phase 1, Without disability: Wellness, good health and physical activity (about 10 years)
  • Phase 2, With disability but no severe or profound core activity limitation: More complex needs with limited impacts on capacity (next 6-7 years)
  • Phase 3, With severe or profound core activity limitation: Higher levels of disability or frailty (another 3-5 years on average).

Reflection Question

Provide at least two (2) examples of how you think needs, experiences and expectations may differ between:
(a)        a person who is “new” old, “middle” old and “old” old;
(b)       an older person who is a long-term HIV survivor and an older person who has just been diagnosed with HIV.

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