Planning for the influx of aged population by 2030
BABY Boomers may be a huge 'bulge' in the population, but these 50-70 year olds are unlikely to leave a legacy of empty nests, says Dr Bette O'Brien.
But there are other problems to grapple with.
Dr O'Brien is the course co-ordinator for Southern Cross University's Regional and Urban Planning School, based in Lismore.
She has worked as a planning consultant, government planner and planning academic, and has conducted research in the area of local government and population ageing.
"The issue of an ageing population is particularly relevant in the North Coast region," she said.
" We really need to be looking closely at how we plan our communities to cater for this demographic change." she said.
"Local councils need to look carefully at their infrastructure to ensure it enables access to facilities and services, supports physical activity and provides opportunities for older people to socialise."
Dr O'Brien said the next 14-20 years would be the crucial time for planning and implementing such measures, a problem faced not only locally but all over the western world.
Baby boomers in Australia, those born between 1946 and 1964, caused a major grinding of the educational gears when they hit the school system in big numbers in the 1950s, forcing construction of new schools and a desperate search for more teachers.
The later drop in student numbers as the population wave receded saw schools in some areas closed, demolished or relocated.
Now the baby boomers are beginning to retire, with those born in 1946 already celebrating reaching three score years and ten.
"The peak years for the baby boomers and the ageing of the population will be the 2020s and early 2030s," Dr O'Brien said.
"We are right on the cusp now and there is not enough awareness in Australia.
"It is not a 'sexy' conversation.
"The Federal government acknowledges the impact on healthcare and pensions but there has not been a really good, hard look at how the impact will translate in local areas.
She said the small percentage of seniors-only housing ensured it would not case problems.
"Retirement villages make up only 5% of seniors housing,", Dr O'Brien said.
"It is not a big issue.
"Lifestyle villages are not for the frail aged.
"Studies in the US and UK show that people often make a second retirement decision at the end of life, often due to frailty or widowhood in the over 75s.