Eurobodalla Labor for Council will take the lead, if elected 4 December, to establish a new community services committee specifically to address the needs of the shire’s large and growing cohort aged 65 and older.

Labor mayoral candidate David Grace will address Eurobodalla Shire Council (ESC) today supporting a community member’s series of questions put to council about its present and future plans for the needs of an estimated 13,000 local residents aged over 65 — the highest number in this group, by percentage, in any NSW local government area (30.5% aged 65+ and 12.8% aged 75+).

“The council is to be acknowledged for the role it plays providing aged and other community services to the residents of Eurobodalla,” Mr Grace said “building on a strong suite of services for elderly people, including the Dr Mackay Community Centre which dates back to the early 1990s.

“Council’s ongoing commitment to a sector of the shire representing one third of its total population is essential and Eurobodalla Labor for Council will not only continue with this strategy, but also reach out to the community for feedback, ideas and suggestions on what could be done better.

“While ‘younger’ people in this over-65 cohort are usually in good health and often at a stage of their lives where they are able to engage in activities which were not possible when they had family and work commitments, there are also other elements within this group who may be older, less healthy, less mobile and even less financially independent.

“We mustn’t forget these sub-sets; being aged over 65 is not one single, homogenous group.

“Some older residents in our community will be well off, while others may be struggling with poverty because of inadequate superannuation and pensions, and we know this applies particularly to women through job loss, expenses connected with illness or disability, or marriage breakdown.

“It’s also important to recognise cultural differences when growing older, especially with regard to the Aboriginal community, and the small but growing number of multicultural residents moving into the shire,” he said.

Eurobodalla Labor for Council believes a mistake often made when planning for older residents is to assume there is an increased need for “accessible” services for the whole age cohort; a ‘one-size fits all accessibility solution’.

“This is not the reality,” Mr Grace said “because if we look at the statistics regarding the need for assistance with core activities, we see that between the ages of 60-75 there is little difference in its needs and community service requirements and the younger cohorts, but after the age of 75, there is a clear increase in the need for care services.

“Council needs to have two distinct focusses on the 65+ sector: the first is for a younger cohort who are likely to be healthy and active, with more free time to pursue interests, and the second focus should be about providing well targeted and well provisioned services for the older, less-mobile age groups.

“The Labor team supports the establishment of a new community services committee specifically to address the needs of the shire’s large and growing cohort aged 65 and older because if anyone knows what’s needed, it’s the people in this age group themselves after all.

“Part of this provisioning for example, is to have information services available for those who are transitioning from being independent to needing assistance.

“A priority which needs urgent attention is places for older people to meet and pursue their interests.  This was a primary focus of the Batemans Bay Community Centre where services such as the U3A, dance groups and yoga classes as well as the Meals on Wheels service were based, all of which are important to older people.

“The council needs to recalibrate its approach to this and either re-instate the community centre to its previous function or provide other facilities that meet this need for active older citizens. It is not good enough for the council to disperse these activities into smaller venues which are often unsuitable for these sorts of activities,” he added.

Homelessness for older people, especially women, who often do not have adequate income support because of disrupted careers or marriage breakdowns affects more than 100 shire residents.

“Council needs to have a long-term focus on providing low cost and social housing for older people, especially those who are in poverty and/or homeless,” Mr Grace said. “One thing this new community services committee would do under Labor would be to drive the discussion on how sustainable building development matches and meshes with our human requirements.

“Labor also will be effective advocates for our local residents who are facing or experiencing homelessness, pursuing both NSW and Commonwealth governments to get the services and support they need” he added.

Labor’s candidates in the 4 December local government elections are: for mayor, David Grace in Broulee; and as councillors, Maureen Searson in Batehaven, Matthew Findlay in Batemans Bay, Claire McAsh in Moruya, Deirdre Russack in Narooma, and Jack Egan in Rosedale.