‘Don’t write us off, older Australians still have plenty to offer’

Jul 02, 2021
Seniors advocate Ian Henschke has hit out at the government's recent intergenerational report. Source: Getty (model posed for picture)

National Seniors Australia Chief Advocate Ian Henschke has penned a scathing piece on the federal government’s latest Intergenerational Report, which focussed heavily on the economic burden of the ageing population, saying fixing issues like childhood obesity and drug and alcohol abuse would be a better use of the government’s money.

Henschke started off by pointing out that our pension system is one of the lowest cost pension systems in the world and that the trillions of dollars older Australians have invested in the super system is helping fund businesses and drive the economy.

“Respected actuary Michael Rice put out a paper three years ago showing some of the early predictions about the costs of ageing, in particular the cost of the pension, turned out to be patently wrong,” he explained.

“Rice found that the cost of the pension by 2050 was actually going to fall, not rise as a percentage of GDP [gross domestic product], because more and more people get the benefit of superannuation and sustained growth in super.

“The 2002 report said the age pension would be 4.6 per cent of GDP by 2042. On present trend it will be half that.”

Henschke went on to question why there’s often so much negative press about the burden of the ageing population on the health system when experts universally agree that preventative health measures are the best way to reduce this burden and therefore we should be focussing our efforts on improving the dismal physical and mental health of our nation’s youth.

“Let’s look at what this latest Intergenerational Report says but take it with a huge pinch of salt and recognise that one thing stays the same: every intergenerational report sees older Australians as a liability and not an asset,” he concluded.

“Interestingly a report last year posed a very different view. Perhaps it’s best to read that and recognise older Australians are an asset not a tsunami or an economic time bomb.”

The piece comes a few weeks after a survey revealed that an overwhelming majority of Australians believe that we are doing a bad job taking care of our older citizens, while even more said they’d never want to end up living in an aged care facility.

Currently, over 200,000 Australians live in residential aged care, and according to statistics from the ABC’s Australia Talks survey, the large majority of us don’t want to join them.

The survey, which collected responses from over 60,000 people, found that there’s an overwhelming belief that our country doesn’t have enough respect for older Australians.

The survey asked questions on a range of topics including superannuation, retirement and aged care and posed the question as to whether or not respondents thought Australia did a good job or a bad job of taking care of its ageing citizens. Sadly, only a quarter of respondents said our country looked after older Australians properly, while 65 per cent said we did a “bad job”.

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