Planning is vital to cater for an ageing population.
Planning is vital to cater for an ageing population. Bev Lacey

New report highlights future pressures of ageing population

WITH the ageing population set to double by 2050, a new report stresses the need for careful planning to prepare for the inevitable pressures on the economy.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety reports the number of Australians aged 85 years or older in 2050 will require "significant adjustments to the Australian economy and systems that support older people”.

The paper estimates that by 2050 more than 5.8 million people or 3.7 per cent of the population will be aged 85 years or older. This compares with about 503,685 people today - or 2 per cent of the current population.

Research into population numbers reveals that from 1980-82 life expectancy at age 65 was 13.8 years for men and 18.0 years for women. By 2000-02 it had increased to 17.4 years for men and 20.8 years for women. By 2015-17, it had increased further to 19.7 years for men and 22.3 years for women.

The Commission report says the number of older Australians is expected to rise especially sharply, "in the context of a population which, as a whole, is becoming more concentrated in the older age brackets”.

The implications for Australia are far ranging, particularly for the financing of aged care and its workforce, where the supply will need to increase both in residential and home care services. Further pressure will also be placed on finding innovative solutions within these care areas.

"As a result, demand for care is likely to shift from being a continuum that moves from home, into low-level residential care and then, often for only a short time, into high-level residential care, towards a pattern concentrated at the two ends of the spectrum,” the report says.

"People will be able to receive the care that they need in their home for a longer period of time and to a greater intensity. Movement into residential aged care will be delayed and only occur at higher levels of frailty than currently.”

The detailed paper, Medium- and long-term pressures on the system: the changing demographics of aged care, explores:

. Complex issues associated with the changing demographic profile, including changes in patterns of disease and dependency, the rising incidence of dementia, changing expectations and the changing cultural profile of the Australian community, and

. Current arrangements, future pressures and a greater need for preventative and restorative health. 

The paper concludes:

. The total supply of care will need to increase, with large absolute rises being required in the level of provision in each part of the aged care spectrum.

. Cost pressures are likely, resulting from changes in the cost of different types of care. A decrease in the availability of informal care, due to low birth rates in recent decades, will result in fewer adult children to provide such care.

. There will be a strong increase in the demand for community care. With fewer children to look after aged parents, the cost of community care will likely increase.

The full report can be found at agedcare.royalcommission.gov.au/publications/Pages/default.aspx.


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