Ageing baby boomers a national priority
New strategies to reduce obesity among baby boomers in the workforce are urgently needed, according to a report released recently by University of Adelaide researchers.
Professor Graeme Hugo AO, Director of the Australian Population and Migration Research Centre at the University of Adelaide, says baby boomers have the highest levels of obesity of any age group in the country.
"If baby boomers want to delay their retirement plans and remain active in the workforce and the community, it is imperative we develop effective strategies to reduce obesity and related chronic conditions," Professor Hugo said.
Professor Hugo is chief investigator of a $1.4 million Australian Research Council project led by the University of Adelaide which recently handed down preliminary findings of research aimed at halting the obesity epidemic among Australian baby boomers.
The project examines how work and home environments shape weight and health trends in this generation.
Preliminary findings show that obesity rates among baby boomers are more than double that of their parents at the same age. They also have twice the rate of asthma and hearing loss; triple the rate of diabetes and almost double the cholesterol levels of their parents (age group 53-62).
The proportion of baby boomers with three or more chronic conditions is 700 per cent greater than the previous generation.
Social indicators suggest they will also have less support, more will enter their later life without a spouse, a greater percentage will live alone, fewer will own their own home and more will rent. Professor Hugo says while the report paints a grim picture, it also offers opportunities.
"Baby boomers are a tremendous social resource for Australia. Their contribution to volunteering in this country is significant and they have a lifetime of accumulated skill and experience to pass on, with 64 per cent intending to work 16 hours or more per week in retirement," Professor Hugo said.
"However, if we are to harness this potential we need to stem the tide of obesity and improve their health while we can."
Professor Hugo says Australia has a brief window of opportunity to reduce the onset of chronic conditions in the baby boomer generation and to maximise their ability to lead active, socially productive lives.
"But that window won't remain open for very long," he said.