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Measuring what matters


A new government wellbeing framework reflects our advice to measure societal wellbeing using broad criteria, not just economics.

National Seniors Australia has welcomed the Federal Government’s Measuring What Matters Framework, which launched in July.

The Framework will track the nation’s progress on a suite of 50 indicators beyond the usual measures of national wellbeing such as GDP or unemployment rates, sitting alongside them to measure more complex aspects of our lives.

It is focused on five themes that each characterise an ideal for individual and collective wellbeing – a society that is healthy, secure, sustainable, cohesive, and prosperous.

Cross-cutting all five themes are the principles of inclusion, fairness, and equality, to ensure wellbeing doesn’t just apply to a favoured few.

Just what the NSA doctors ordered


If you asked the National Seniors Research Team, they would say this Framework is long overdue. 

Recently, Dr Lindy Orthia, Dr Diane Hosking, along with former NSA CEO and Research Director Professor John McCallum, co-authored a compelling peer-reviewed chapter advocating the adoption of this very approach to monitor national wellbeing. 

The chapter was part of the ANU Press book More Than Fiscal, which is about the Australian Government’s intergenerational reports – its five-yearly reviews of how the nation is tracking to meet current and future needs.

The NSA team showed most intergenerational reports have ignored social developments, instead focusing solely on economics and demographic trends despite the influence social factors have on these.

We proposed that Australia adopt a similar framework to Aotearoa New Zealand’s Living Standards Framework, which incorporates a wide variety of ideals that matter to people but are difficult to measure, such as cultural capability and belonging, political engagement and voice, social support and love from family and friends, and sufficient leisure time. 

Measuring What Matters has much in common with the Living Standards Framework. Most importantly, it makes a statement that many less-tangible aspects of life are critical to our wellbeing and should be accounted for when evaluating how well our society is doing.

Reflecting what happens to older people


The five Framework themes are all highly relevant to the values of older people living in Australia, as articulated in your responses to our annual National Seniors Social Surveys and your engagement with our advocacy agenda.

We will continue to research and campaign for change on all these themes, in the hope that future measurements in the Measuring What Matters Framework dashboard will be enhanced.

Here is a summary of the five themes along with some current National Seniors resources of relevance to each.

Healthy 

The Framework vision: A society in which people feel well and are in good physical and mental health, can access services when they need, and have the information they require to take action to improve their health.

Being healthy and being able to access health support services when needed, including quality aged care, are high priorities for many older people as we have found in survey after survey.

Ideals for the aged care system have been a strong theme of our recent advocacy and research, including in our 2022 report “As Close to Home as Possible”: Older Australians’ Hopes and Fears for Aged Care

Your views about healthcare affordability and accessibility in Australia are explored in a forthcoming 2023 National Seniors report, which will feed into our Health Costs policy platform. 

Secure

The Framework vision: A society where people live peacefully, feel safe, have financial security, and access to housing. 

Financial security and housing are topics of concern to many of us, reflected in our Fix Pension Poverty and Better Housing campaigns. 

These issues are front of mind for many older people with the cost-of-living crisis, especially those who are renting or who have low incomes as our 2023 research shows. 

That research also tells us 64% of older people are concerned about their ability to afford suitable housing during the rest of their life. 

We have a lot to contribute to this theme, with more research coming on housing and older people later this year.

Sustainable 

The Framework vision: A society that sustainably uses natural and financial resources, protects and repairs the environment and build resilience to combat challenges. 

Our 2019 and 2021 Surveys told us that older people overwhelmingly believe climate change is occurring and want action on it. Those numbers have grown over time.

This is one of the reasons National Seniors has an active Healthy Earth, Healthier Future campaign and promotes a Clean Energy Bond scheme as an easy, low risk way for older people to invest their money in sustainable development. 

Cohesive 

The Framework vision: A society that supports connections with family, friends and the community, values diversity, and promotes belonging and culture. 

Community connection and belonging are core to wellbeing, according to 80% of older people we surveyed in 2022, who said participating actively in the community can improve your quality of life. 

We saw how important these values were during the first years of the COVID crisis, when National Seniors partnered with Australian Unity to run the COVID-19 outreach program into new and emerging Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities. 

Drawing on the connections and lifelong skills of community leaders, we built direct, interpersonal support relationships with almost 2,000 vulnerable older members of the Filipino, Cambodian, Spanish-speaking, Arabic-speaking, Afghan, and Burmese communities, providing COVID information, aged care referrals, social contact and much more.

Prosperous 

The Framework vision: A society that has a dynamic, strong economy, invests in people’s skills and education, and provides broad opportunities for employment and well-paid, secure jobs. 

National Seniors’ most widely recognised policy right now advocates better rules, opportunities and training for pensioners who want to work

National Seniors has published research on post-retirement work and ageism as recently as 2022, following a long history of researching the topics of older people’s experiences in education and work in past years.

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