Advocates push for change as older Australians struggle with cost of living

May 15, 2023
Despite the Budget allocating a considerable amount to aged care spending in 2023-24, many older Australians remain concerned about their financial wellbeing. Source: Getty Images.

Council on the Ageing Australia (COTA) are calling for more to be done to ease the financial burden placed on older Australians, in light of a recent report revealing the concerns of many seniors regarding their future.

COTA’s State of the Older Nation (SOTON) 2023 report surveyed the experiences and views of 2,750 Australians aged 50, with the findings painting somewhat of a grim picture for older Australians.

The recent report found that a striking 45 per cent believe that their situation is worse, a significant rise from 2021 (33 per cent) and 2019 (27 per cent).

What’s more, the report raises concerns over the financial insecurity of working individuals, with 24 per cent unsure if they will ever retire, and 20 per cent facing payment difficulties leading to overdue bills.

Additionally, the findings reveal a prevailing sense of pessimism, as fewer older Australians feel financially secure and have difficulties accessing health services, with a higher incidence of age discrimination and fears of homelessness, particularly among the most vulnerable members of the community.

COTA Chief Executive Patricia Sparrow said that “the report’s findings underscore the need for the Australian government to develop a national strategy for older people so policymakers take urgent steps to address the concerns of older Australians to ensure they are more secure and resilient in the future.”

“Ageism is a perverse challenge which permeates the lives of older Australians and sits underlying this wider trend of growing insecurity,” Sparrow added.

Despite the Budget allocating a considerable amount to aged care spending in 2023-24, many older Australians remain concerned about their financial wellbeing, particularly regarding the housing crisis and the risk of homelessness.

A staggering six in 10 seniors reported that the cost of living is placing an enormous strain on their budget, a significant increase from just two years ago when only 31 per cent held similar concerns.

“Though we are pleased with the outcome of this year’s federal budget which provided some relief on the pressures older Australians are facing, there is still more to do,” COTA federation chair Joan Hughes said.

“The hip pocket of older Australians especially, older pensioners who rent, are still strained.”

Despite these concerns, cost of living was high on the agenda for this year’s Budget as the Federal Government implemented measures to help ease the strain of rising day-to-day expenses, particularly for older Australians.

The government committed to delivering up to $3 billion in direct energy bill relief for eligible households and small businesses as part of its $14.6 billion cost‑of‑living plan.

More than 5 million households will have up to $500 deducted from their power bills in the next financial year.

“Real relief, right off your power bill, right when you need it,” Chalmers said while announcing the measure.

The move is expected to benefit pensioners, small businesses, and individuals receiving government payments.

The Budget also saw Labor commit $11.3 billion towards funding a substantial 15 per cent pay increase for aged care workers.

The significant investment is expected to draw more staff to the sector and will be a vital step forward towards the government’s commitment to improving the quality of aged care in Australia.

The Budget has also allocated $2.2 billion to increase access to life changing medicines through the PBS.

From September this year, patients will be able to get more of the medicine they need at a reduced cost.

In response to the difficulty that many Australians face in accessing “affordable” and “reliable healthcare”, Medicare will also receive “$3.5 billion boost” to ensure greater access to GPs for pensioners and concession card holders.

The funding increase will help GPs provide free consultations to an estimated 11.6 million eligible Australians

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