Suitable, affordable housing is key to our population ageing well 117



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Whatever one’s opinion on the Intergenerational Report (IGR), it is undeniable that Australia faces challenging economic and personal realities over the next 40 years. Treasurer Joe Hockey has emphasised the IGR highlights the need for Australia to respond to demographic changes. Proposed responses include extending the average working life and increasing participation by Australian seniors.

On April 14, the Senate Economics References Committee is due to deliver its report on affordable housing. This report is expected to highlight shortfalls in affordable and age-appropriate housing.

These major demographic and housing issues are closely connected. The challenges they present must be tackled against a background of deteriorating economic conditions and an oversubscribed health system.

The issues the IGR raises are many and varied. They are also subject to a plethora of contingencies. However, one issue that cannot be denied is the inescapable impact – one way or another – of an ageing population on Australia’s economic future.

The danger is that the government seems to be emphasising (albeit crucial) issues such as employment and health without taking a broader view of factors, of which housing is pivotal, that will nourish and buttress these aspirations.

Housing is tied to health and productivity

If Australian seniors are to remain healthy and work longer, the importance of appropriate housing cannot be underestimated. Much attention is being paid to the rising cost of health care for an ageing population. However, the nexus between secure accommodation and better health and financial outcomes for older people, the broader community and the economy is largely overlooked.

If older Australians are more secure in their accommodation, they are more likely to remain employed and in good physical and psychological health. All of the consequential benefits of this flow to the economy and the nation as a whole. Therefore, improved provision of affordable senior housing is vital to enable people to remain employed into their 60s, 70s and even 80s, and thereby lift Australia’s productivity and sustain economic growth.

To pursue these goals in the IGR, the government’s attention must extend to ensuring an adequate supply of affordable and suitable housing for seniors. The population of older Australians is naturally diverse, so individual housing preferences vary significantly.

The major asset of most Australian households is the family home. For seniors, housing equity makes up approximately half of their wealth. However, research to date suggests few of these households are drawing on this wealth during retirement.

Insecurity has multiple harmful impacts

For older people who do not own a home and must find affordable accommodation in a competitive market, life can be particularly daunting. As social policy researcher Bruce Bradbury has noted:

Australia is unusual in that economic exclusion among the elderly is closely linked to a lack of home ownership (or access to public housing).

Seniors have different housing requirements to younger people and families. Older Australians often require smaller and more accessible housing located close to services, care and support.

Transitions in later life are complex. These transitions, it has been observed challenge older adults to make projections of a future self and to anticipate their emotional, medical and financial needs.

Older people who are secure in the knowledge that they can stay in their accommodation for an extended period – or permanently – exhibit demonstrably better physical and psychological health than those in less stable accommodation. Insecurity in one’s home environment heightens the risks to physical and psychological health in the short and longer term, including feelings of powerlessness.

Insecure accommodation may also impact on older people’s social situations. They may become reluctant to engage in their local communities. If they have to relocate, they may lose support and friendship networks.

The prospect of possibly having to move weighs heavily on older people. This is especially so where options for accommodation elsewhere are limited.

Finally, significant economic costs are attached to the heightened risk of physical or psychological illnesses.

Beyond the headlines, a concerted strategy for an older – but healthier and more productive – population must be crafted. A focus on secure, affordable housing for seniors is a cornerstone for any such aspirations.The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Eileen Webb and Gill North

Eileen is a Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Western Australia. She is Co-Director of the Consumer Research Unit and a former Associate Dean of the Faculty. Her research interests revolve around consumer law, real property law and, more recently, how law affects Senior Australians, particularly in relation to accommodation and financial transactions. Gill North is an Associate Professor of Law at Monash University ProfileArticles

  1. Move to an over 50’s village like we did.Sold our house,bought a house in the village for half the price of what we sold for and have low weekly site fees.No exit fees,feel safe,can have people stay with you for up to 3 months and made many new move we ever made.

    1 REPLY
    • What if you are unlucky enough to not own a house?

  2. yes they need more affordable housing but not so we can work till 80years old..Hockey is in for a rude shock if he dumb enough to think Boomers are going to line up to do that !!

    4 REPLY
    • I agree Libbi, but I don’t think we have to worry it’s our poor kids generation I worry about, how many professions are suitable for 70 & 80 yr olds to work in & unless they are self funded they won’t even be able to excess their super to retire before 70.

    • yes I worry about the kids too, it is becoming scary in this country, they seem to want to work us to death and where are the jobs? Do we take jobs off kids and then force them into an old age of poverty?

    • I am in total agreement with you Libbi Elliot I used to be a young single mum working to keep a roof over our heads.
      I was only able to get a casual on call job at Target and women in their 60s were working for their next holiday overseas were partime or fulltime. …..
      Those jobs could have gond to younger people trying to survive !!!!

    • Libby there are a lot of ppl on aged pensions they cant afford to eat properly now… I for one think it stinks.. after working most of our lives we don’t even get the basic wage… which I think stinks.. I feel sorry for the ones on aged pension who cant even afford heating in the winter .. disgusting

  3. Affordable housing 🙂 excuse me for smiling or is this a ploy to get Boomers to sell their homes for something way smaller, then get off the pension because they have to much money and send them back to work? I don’t trust this Government with anything and as for working till we are 80years old all I can say is good luck with that because it won’t happen

    1 REPLY
  4. Of course there is not enough age appropriate housing available! Where I live the waiting list for a 1 bedroom unit is about 10 years! I’m 70! Any suggestions?

  5. Retirement places look terrific but for us unaffordable so think yes need more

    1 REPLY
    • elderly dont count any more if you havent got the assets to sell to pay your own way in retirement villages nor a family who care enough to look after you like you looked after them… bloody sad isnt it…

  6. Yes there not enough affordable housing for AUSTRALIANS of any age they all appear to be given to the refugees and illegals. There will never be a balance for all whilst our bums face the ground. This has been a growing problem as we the baby boomers began our trek through the tunnels of life.. Gave us nothing cracked the whip made us work to build up this country, now they want it back and give all we worked for to aliens to this country….. FO.

  7. Instead of giving young couples a first home owners grant why not give a similar amount to retirees to do any modifications that are required to make them able to stay in their existing homes for as long as possible. The grant could go towards paying off existing mortgages which some people do still have – although probably small. It could be used for repairs to make homes safe, remodifying bathrooms to something more user friendly, replacing steps with ramps or chair lifts etc etc. This would go a long way to making seniors feel more secure and cut down on the number of people seeking placement in nursing homes – it would still see the money filter out to the building industry and the public sector and would be a fit reward for our seniors who in real terms have received little if any Govt assistance over the years.

  8. We need more public housing too. But we got to get people to respect it again as it was once upon a time. Plus I feel unless you live in australia you shouldn’t be able to buy housing.

  9. Definitely need more affordable housing. I think that Joe Hockey forgets most of baby boomers generation left school at 15 to work, moved out of home got married and had family early and because of financial situations most of our kids do not move out of home till at least 25. Now we have to work way past pension age. Consider that Joe!!!! Give us some affordable quality housing.

    2 REPLY
    • Wasn’t, I was saying our generation have worked hard from leaving school till retirement plus. Always has to be a negative person out there reading into it their interpretation, which in yr case is a very wrong intepretation Jim.

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