Noosa mayor Tony Wellington.
Noosa mayor Tony Wellington.

Noosa Council confronts challenges of ageing

NOOSA Mayor Tony Wellington acknowledges people aged over 65 make up a significant proportion of Noosa's population and with that comes a range of issues that the council needs to manage.

As a 64-year-old he is acutely aware of the importance of the council supporting this cohort.

Cr Wellington has the personal experience in dealing with aged care with his mother spending her last years in a high-care facility while his father, who is in his 90s, continues to live independently at home.

Seniors News spoke to Mr Wellington about how the council was managing and what its plans were for supporting its growing seniors population.

"Twenty-one per cent of Noosa residents are aged over 65," Cr Wellington said. That number is higher than in other part of Queensland.

"So, it's important to consider our older residents in all the aspects of our planning, policy and infrastructure decisions."

Noosa Council is developing an updated planning scheme to deal with the shire's growth over the next 20 years. Coined the Noosa Plan, it is due to be published in March.

The plan recognises that there will be an increasing demand for suitable housing.

"The new plan supports secondary dwellings, or granny flats," Cr Wellington said. "It tries to encourage smaller dwelling units which are going to be more favourable to an older demographic.

"It identifies a new site for residential care as we have done a housing needs analysis to determine what we need in the future in terms of our ageing population. And we are protecting the existing age care and residential care facilities into the future."

Cr Wellington acknowledged there was a good choice of aged care housing options in Noosa.

"Obviously there is going to be an increasing need for care for people with dementia and that is one of the things we are discussing at the moment with various care providers who are hopefully looking at developing some high-need facilities that are cutting edge in their approach," he said.

Cr Wellington said the council was already supporting a range of clubs and community groups which helped ensure Noosa residents kept physically and mentally well.

"I think last year we channelled about $800,000 into community organisations in our shire," he said. "That includes service clubs, men's and women's sheds, bridge and geniality clubs, and U3A."

This is in addition to the council's infrastructure such as the Noosa Aquatic and Noosa Leisure centres which put on various senior specific activities.

The libraries have an outreach service, he said, in addition to their in-house senior events, which uses volunteers to deliver books to seniors who cannot get into a shire library.

Makerspace in the libraries is another initiative Mr Wellington identified. He said it was helping seniors to become more technologically engaged through learning to use 3D printers and hi-tech sewing machines.

"There is a wide of range of activities that are run through community organisations that we support," he said.

The door-to-door council cab service is another senior support initiative.

Mr Wellington said that an increase in demand of services that support people ageing in their own homes would put pressure on the council.

"We are running Noosa Community Support which requires a higher level of funding from government," he said. "It offers respite care for carers and it has a lot of in-home support including cleaning, home maintenance and transport for shopping and doctor visits. It's a fantastic service and quite unique I believe."

Funding for all these services still sits comfortably within the council budget, Cr Wellington said.

"We see it as a normal course of business to provide for the ageing population given the demographic of our community" he said.

The council is due to launch a new website soon on which Mr Wellington assured shire seniors would have their own web page.

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