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Is ageing Australia the problem?

The latest Intergenerational Report highlights challenges of an ageing population. Let’s use this as an opportunity to fix a broken system.

Last chance to have your say on aged care

National Seniors is working with the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) and COTA Australia to gather feedback from older people on the proposed principles for aged care funding reform.

If you would like to contribute, click on the link below to complete the short survey.

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The sixth Intergenerational Report (IGR) has been released and, as usual, it comes with a flood of negativity about older people being a 'burden' on society.

Unsurprisingly, the report highlights we are living longer with slowing population growth and a declining proportion of the population of working age population. 

The overriding narrative in the media is that older people are a burden on society, with older people not contributing enough and using up too much of government’s limited revenue. 

Too often we hear negative language when describing older people. Not only does this reflect poorly on society, but it also fuels the misconception they are a financial burden. It also paints all older people with the same brush, when we know that some are doing well, and many others are doing it tough. 

Instead of seeing older people through the prism of a burden, what if we instead viewed older people positively as part of the solution? 

In this regard, the IGR could be an opportunity to change the way Australians view older people, their capacity, and their contribution to our country. 

As National Seniors Australia research shows, older people are concerned about the future for younger generations and the environment; make invaluable contributions to the economy by stimulating consumption; provide unpaid care and support to grandchildren; and contribute by volunteering and working.  

As Australians get older, most will rely on health and aged care services. In this regard, we all have a common interest in ensuring there are adequate services available in later life. The focus on costs must be balanced with an acknowledgment that supporting older people is what a good society does.

While the IGR predicts an ageing population will increase government spending on health and aged care, there are opportunities to leverage off older people, but only if the policy settings are refocused.

By subtly adjusting its policy settings, government could make the most of our ageing population.

For example, there’s a vast number of willing older people with experience and skills who could significantly help solve workforce shortages.

Yet, the current system penalises pensioners and veterans who work more than about one day per week. This must change.

This could be done by changing the taper rate applied to work income from 50 cents to 32.5 cents in the dollar and could be trialled first in the health and care sectors, where workforce shortages are critical. By changing the rules in this targeted way, we can reward people who need to work without costing the budget. Best of all, people only get the benefit if they chose to work or work more.

Another option is to use older people’s wealth to help address climate change and meet emissions targets.

This could be done by allowing individual investors to put the savings they would normally place in term deposit accounts into safe government green bonds, which fund emissions target reduction activities (something the UK Government has already done). Our own research shows the demand exists for these products.

The point is not to simply say all older people are a burden, but to understand how we can leverage older people as resources to achieve positive results.


Brett Debritz

Brett Debritz

Communications Specialist, National Seniors Australia

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