Promoting healthy ageing

What we want to achieve between 2020 and 2025:

  • To support positive ageing, more adults engaging in healthy and protective lifestyle behaviours related to their physical and mental health.

A focus on healthy ageing

People in the ACT have the highest life expectancy in Australia and will live many of their years in good health.

However, not all Canberrans are as healthy as they could be, with nearly half of all Canberrans living with one or more chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer or mental health conditions.

As people get older they are more likely to develop one or more of these chronic diseases. In 2018, around 38% of the total burden of disease in Australia could be prevented by supporting healthy behaviours such as getting a good amount of physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, having a healthy diet, reducing alcohol consumption and not smoking.

The earlier these lifestyle behaviours are adopted, the less likely it is for a person to develop chronic illness later in life.

Strategies that promote healthy lifestyle behaviours in midlife (45 to 65 years old) have the potential to delay and prevent age-related chronic diseases.

Continuing to promote healthy lifestyles including disease management in older people (generally, over 65 years old) is equally important for keeping us healthier for longer.

Key population health measures

The main population health measure for the promoting healthy ageing priority area is total burden of disease. This is measured using disability-adjusted life years, or the number of years lost due to ill-health, disability or early death.

In 2018, the total burden of disease measured using disability-adjusted life years was 177.9 years per 1,000 people in the ACT. The ACT was the second lowest of all jurisdictions in Australia. This has increased slightly since 2011 where people in the ACT lost 175.0 years of healthy life per 1,000 people which was the lowest rate nationally at the time.

Other relevant population health measures reported on HealthStats in the ACT include:

  • leading causes of the total burden of disease
  • deaths
  • life expectancy
  • self-rated health
  • life satisfaction
  • social support
  • stress.

Further information about burden of disease measures including an update on trends in the ACT can be found in the latest Chief Health Officer reporting on burden of disease.

This priority area aligns with the Health domain of the Wellbeing Framework, in particular the overall health, healthy lifestyle, life expectancy, mental health and access to health services indicators. This priority area also aligns with the:

Activities delivered under the first action plan

The Healthier Work Program

The Healthier Work Program builds the capacity of ACT private and public sector employers to provide safe and healthy working environments. The program has provided ongoing support to around 70 local businesses participating in the Healthier Work Recognition Scheme to help them develop and implement evidence-based workplace health and wellbeing initiatives. This helps to protect and promote employee health and help to prevent age-related chronic disease.

In 2020, dedicated webpages were created to provide health and wellbeing information during COVID-19. In 2022, the program underwent a major review and re-design to better meet the needs of ACT businesses and employees.

Mentally Healthier Program

The Mentally Healthier Program was launched in 2020 to encourage workplaces to make a pledge to prevent harm, promote positive culture, protect staff wellbeing, and provide support for staff experiencing mental ill-health.

‘Personality and Total Health’ (PATH) Through Life study

The Personality and Total Health Through Life study is a large ongoing study that collects information from about 7,500 people from the ACT and surrounds. The study has been following the same individuals across 3 age groups for more than 20 years.

Findings from this research will strengthen the evidence base for programs and initiatives related to healthy ageing in the ACT.

Age-Friendly City Plan

The Age-Friendly City Plan 2020-2024 was launched in May 2020 with the vision that older Canberrans are recognised as valued members of our community and enabled to lead productive lives as they age. The plan contains a series of actions across 4 domains which cover health, public transport, human rights and planning.

Some of the key highlights from 2020-2022 include:

  • introducing legislation that makes elder abuse an offence
  • delivering print media and radio advertising regarding elder abuse, age discrimination and the rights of older people
  • introducing an online Seniors Card application form to encourage use of public transport
  • updating the ACT Public Service enterprise agreement to support flexible work arrangements for older employees to support retention and recognition of their contributions
  • launching the Re-envisioning Older Person’s Mental Health and Wellbeing in the ACT Strategy 2022-2026 and commencing development of an implementation plan
  • upgrading 81 bus stops in 2022 during to improve accessibility.

Ongoing preventive health activities promoting healthy ageing

Seniors Grants Program

The Seniors Grants Program provides funding for innovative projects that promote older Canberrans as valued members of the ACT community and enable their active participation in community life.

The 2021-22 Senior Grants Program funded the following initiatives which encouraged older Canberrans to engage in activities in local outdoor community spaces to support active, healthy living and reduce social isolation:

  • Funding to U3A-ACT to support the purchase of radio systems to be used as part of the U3A Walks and Tours Program Audio Guide System.
  • Funding to the ACT Chinese Women Cultural Association for the Never too late to learn new skills program to provide horticulture workshops for older people.

Immunisation programs

Vaccines are distributed through the National Immunisation Program to prevent disease and support good health including:

  • annual influenza vaccine for 65 year olds and over
  • pneumococcal vaccines for 70 year olds
  • the shingles vaccine for 70 year olds (catch-up program for 71-79 year olds ends October 2023).

In 2022, 70,290 influenza vaccines, 4,875 shingles vaccines and 21,235 pneumococcal vaccines were distributed in the ACT.

ACT Cancer Screening Services

In Australia there are 3 national cancer screening programs – BreastScreen Australia, the National Cervical Screening Program and the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

The ACT cancer screening service works to stay connected with the national programs and related service providers to ensure services have access to the most up to date information.

In 2022, the self-collection cervical screen program was successfully implemented to give patients the choice to collect their own sample.

Programs funded through the Healthy Canberra Grants

The  Healthy Canberra Grants funded a range of community programs aimed at promoting healthy ageing between 2020 and 2022:

  • Uniting Church Kippax was funded $144,869 for the United Healthy Ageing Project, a holistic program focused on supporting healthy ageing in adults aged 50 years and over.
  • Northside Community Service was funded $495,502 for the Community Health Activation Network program that supports marginalised or at-risk members of the community to access, engage in and lead a healthy and active lifestyle.
  • OzHarvest was funded $225,000 for the NEST 2.0 program which aims to improve the food literacy and dietary behaviours of vulnerable adults.
  • SHOUT was funded $145,889 for the Healthy Living Inclusive Garden Program, an inclusive program for people living with chronic health conditions that aims to enhance physical and mental health and wellbeing, as well as increase social connectedness.
  • Landcare ACT was funded $224,390 for the Recovery and Wellbeing through Nature program which aims to improve mental health and increase social connectedness of Canberrans through therapeutic nature-based activities.

A total of $380K was awarded across 10 community organisations through the Healthy Canberra Grants: Reconnection within Priority Populations round announced in 2022. Recipients included programs such as Council on the Ageing ACT’s Senior Adult Falls Risk and Exercise Program to support falls prevention in older people.

Page last updated on: 8 Dec 2023