Sustainability matters to all of us as individuals and is becoming increasingly crucial to the long-term strategies of many organisations. The aged care sector is no exception. Demand for aged care is growing at an increasing rate, and while the population of seniors continues to grow exponentially, so has the price of food, water, energy, and land. Thus, aged care organisations will need to adapt, both from the perspective of considering the planet and their ongoing economic sustainability.
Future growth rates of seniors potentially needing aged care will astonish you. Research conducted by McCrindle* (depicted below) shows our population of seniors (85+) will more than triple by 2047 to 1,883,723. In fact, in the next thirty years Australia will have 1.4 million more people aged over 85*. That figure may continue to grow as our life expectancy moves upward. Today our life expectancy at birth is an average of 83.3 verse 89.9 in 2047*. What does this mean to the environment? It means within the next few decades we will have many more seniors requiring care for much longer, increasing the size of the aged care industry and its impact on our environment.
Colin Osborne is the CEO of Anglican Care, a provider of aged care residential homes and services across the Hunter, Central, and Mid Coast. He stated,
“As an organisation, we are taking a long-term view of our sustainability objectives and have already commenced implementing sustainable practices such as the reduction of food waste, energy use and the installation of solar.”
Given the size of the aged care industry today and the future expansion, moves to reduce their reliance on coal and other fossil fuels can have a significant impact on our environment. There are also cost savings which can be made by moving to renewable energy, reducing water usage and food waste. The big question is, how will aged care providers incorporate such vast changes?
“Sustainability is not something you tack on to your organisation’s goals. The strategies must be integrated into your operations if you are to maximise your impacts, gain positive economic results, and reduce your organisations carbon footprint”, said Colin.
The NSW Government has collaborated with the sector and other commercial industries to assist them in becoming more sustainable. The Sustainability Advantage Program supports organisations to build their capacity to undertake and achieve on-going improvements to their environmental management practices. The program has over 500 medium to large member organisations and recognises three levels of achievement by its members – gold, silver, and bronze.
According to Mr Osborne, it’s vital to engage your workforce when identifying and delivering your sustainability initiatives. Hence, Anglican Care has appointed a team of Sustainability Champions, led by Deb Matthews, to ensure they can identify opportunities from a variety of clinical and operational perspectives. Recently acknowledged as Bronze member of the Sustainability Advantage program, the team is currently working towards Silver status by mid 2020.
Deb explained, “My attitude to sustainability in aged care is think globally, act locally! Our organisation is committed to making a difference to our planet. Our goal is to reach Silver within the next six months. This would be an outstanding achievement in a short time frame.”
Sustainable practices of the aged care industry, and industry in general, clearly require short and long term holistic planning, people power and action taken today.