Sunshine Coast Council Mayor Mark Jamieson.
Sunshine Coast Council Mayor Mark Jamieson.

Council seeks balance for young and old

THE Sunshine Coast Council faces the challenge of building community infrastructure and attitudes that balance the needs of both its burgeoning senior and younger cohorts.

The desirable living choices available on the Coast have resulted in it having the largest concentration of older people in Australia.

Of the almost 319,000 residents, about 20 per cent are aged over 65.

On the other side of the demographic puzzle is the large number of younger people who are staying on the Coast or moving here as more employment opportunities open.

The current unemployment rate in the council area is down from more than 10 per cent to 5.8 per cent.

"It's an interesting challenge, but it's a challenge I would rather have than not because it wasn't that long ago that the younger people were leaving the Coast in droves because they didn't have any real employment prospects," Sunshine Coast Council Mayor Mark Jamieson said.

It's projected the Coast's population will grow by about 8000 annually, reaching 500,000 people by 2041.

What once was a regional centre is heading quickly towards becoming a regional city.

"We continue to see the arrival of many retirees who are people who would be considered very healthy and active," Cr Jamieson said.

"(The) council has a range of healthy Sunshine Coast seniors' programs that provide free or low-cost health and physical activity options.

"That engagement with the community and the partnerships with health and research organisations augurs well for us, hopefully maximising the benefit of very experienced people living on the Coast who are able to provide support, ideas and mentoring."

In the middle, and responsible for balancing the needs and desires of the community, is the council.

In late November the council released its Community Strategy 2019-2041, which seeks to find a balance between the needs and wants of the young and the older community members.

The key ideas that flow through the strategy are: healthier, more active; better connections; environmentally sustainable; more creative and more innovative.

The strategy relies heavily on, among other things, the concept of inclusion.

It states " … encourage inclusive, socially cohesive and resilient communities to provide equitable access to basic services and social and economic opportunities".

It was developed in consultation with a wide variety of groups, including the Healthy Ageing Partnership and Sunshine 60 & Better.

Seniors are not identified separately in the strategy but the opportunities for them to thrive and survive well are woven throughout it.

This applies also for the Coast's ageing indigenous population, the Kabi Kabi and the Jinibara peoples.

The "very young" 60-year-old Mayor said he could see a time when what is being put in place by the council now would be integral to his wellbeing.

For now, Cr Jamieson has his sights set on staying well and engaged.

"I consider myself young at heart, young in mind and I want to maintain that, so having a reasonable amount of exercise and engaging in stimulating the mind is very important, as well as having the right diet and moderating the intake of all things," he said.

"As I look to the future, the next 20-odd years, no doubt I will be utilising some of those services as well."

Cr Jamieson said the Coast's volunteering program was "highly regarded" and he is eager for it to be bolstered by more seniors helping to develop the region by voluntarily contributing their skills and knowledge to the younger members of the community.

"It helps build a strong community, one that we like to think is healthy, smart and creative," he said.

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