The number of older people in Western Australia is expanding rapidly.
In June 2019, the population aged 50 – 64 in Western Australia was estimated to be 466,958, more than double that of 25 years ago.
The population aged 65 and over was 388,712, double what it was only 20 years ago.
Future population projections show a similar story, with the proportion of people aged 65 and over, estimated to increase from 14 per cent in 2017 to between 20 and 22 per cent in 2066.
Governments should be implementing policies now to accommodate the nation’s changing demographics. Western Australia is no exception.
Rather than presenting a laundry list of demands and waiting for the deafening silence, our 2020-21 Budget Submission focuses on a small number of key recommendations
Oral health should be a high priority for government.
A healthy mouth enables people to eat, speak and socialise without pain, discomfort or embarrassment.
Poor oral health is linked to chronic diseases, including stroke and cardiovascular disease.
Unfortunately, financial barriers are adversely impacting dental visits for older people in Western Australia.
High costs create treatment barriers for many people.
Latest national statistics show that 31 per cent of people aged 15 and over did not see a dental professional at least once when needed. Sixty per cent of these people said this was due to cost.
An unintended consequences of treatment avoidance is that it leads to emergency treatment of preventable dental conditions in hospitals. This places strain on emergency departments and the health budget.
That is why we have called on the WA Government to provide extra funding for oral health to ensure that seniors get the treatment they need.
Downsizing is one way to help older people obtain housing that suits their needs as they age.
It is something that National Seniors supports as part of our national Better Housing campaign.
Stamp duty costs provide a disincentive or barrier to downsizing.
Our research shows that 36 per cent of people aged 50 and over live in a home that is not suitable for them as they age.
Only 38 per cent of older people have taken steps to prepare themselves for getting older.
Of the 42.1 per cent of seniors who say they have no intention to downsize, almost one-quarter cited the costs of stamp duty and moving as factors discouraging them.
Other states and territories, including Victoria, the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania have recognised this problem and provide a specific seniors concession for stamp duty. This encourages older people to downsize.
The WA Government needs to include a seniors-specific downsizing concession for stamp duty.
The issue of finding work in your 50s is a growing concern.
Workers aged 50 – 64 now make up 29.8 per cent of Western Australia’s total working age population (20-64).
We regularly hear from mature jobseekers who are struggling to find and maintain employment.
Many claim they are overlooked because of their age. Others downplay their experience just to get a job.
Part of the issue facing mature workers is the need to retrain or reskill to access the changing job market.
We want the WA Government to improve outcomes for mature age workers by providing them with early intervention re-skilling opportunities.
Such assistance should focus on an individual’s needs and aim to help older job seekers in Western Australia gain the skills needed to manage their own careers and achieve their career goals.