I was employed by the Council between1988 and 1994 as the aged care community worker and then community services manager. It is heartening to see council’s continuing commitment to one of our largest age groups in the Shire. In fact, Eurobodalla has Australia’s 6th highest population of people by percentage aged over 65, and the highest by percentage in NSW (30.5% aged 65+; 12.8% aged 75+). Source: https://blog.id.com.au/2020/population/demographic-trends/where-is-the-elderly-population-in-australia/
Eurobodalla Labor strongly supports the re-establishment of a strong and independent community services committee, which was a successful feature in my time as community services manager.
We are dealing with a diverse group of people in an age range of 65 to over 100.
- There are younger people who are often in very good health and can engage in activities which were not possible when they had family and work commitments. There are also very fit and active older members of this age group.
- There are those whose health is failing and need services.
- There is diversity of wealth. Some older residents in our community will be well off, while others may have struggled with poverty all their lives. There is also a significant proportion of people who begin to experience poverty in their older years, because of inadequate superannuation and pensions- this applies particularly to women, those who lose jobs at the end of their working life, and expenses connected with illness or disability.
- We also must be aware of cultural differences about growing older, especially our Aboriginal population.
A mistake that is often made when planning for older people is to assume there is an increased need for “accessible” services for the whole age cohort. This is not the case. If we look at the statistics, we see that between the ages of 60-75 there is little difference between this age group and the younger cohorts. After the age of 75, there is a clear increase in the need for care services.
From these statistics, when we are planning in the long term for the 65+ cohorts, we need to have two different focusses, the first is for a younger cohort who are likely to be healthy and active, with more free time to pursue interests that were not open to them when they were working or raising children, and the second focus on providing well targeted and well provisioned services for the older age groups. Part of this provisioning is to have information services available for those who are transitioning from being independent to needing assistance.
The Council’s response to the question on long term planning concentrates very strongly on providing accessible services for the elderly. While this is important, there also needs to be a focus on those in this cohort who are in good health, and do not need accessible services. There is no detail about the long-term planning that this healthy and active cohort of older people might want. In this short presentation I will concentrate on this issue
There needs to be places for older people to meet and pursue their interests. This was a primary focus of the Batemans Bay Community Centre. Services such as the U3A, dance groups and yoga groups as well as the meals on wheels service. The council needs to recalibrate its approach and either re-instate the community centre to its previous function or provide other facilities that meet the needs of active older citizens for meeting places. It is not good enough for the council to disperse these activities into smaller venues which are often not suitable for the activity.
The council needs to be working with community groups to develop and enhance activities for those 65 and over. Community progress associations could be consulted about activities that could be developed within the many villages of the shire to encourage this age group to be active in their area.
Volunteering is a vital activity which supports many of the council sponsored activities in the shire. It is very encouraging to see that the council has over 700 volunteers providing services ranging from support services to seniors to Landcare. Many of those volunteers would be in the “young old” cohort. This number does not include the volunteers working with emergency services such as the SES and the RFS. The council’s support for this important part of our workforce needs to continue as without these volunteers many of these services could not function.
Although superannuation and pensions are Commonwealth issues, the council must deal with the consequences of years of bad policy that has resulted in increasing poverty and homelessness for many older people, especially women, who often do not have adequate income support because of disrupted careers due to childcare, or family breakups where superannuation is not evenly distributed.
At the 2016 Census there were around 120 homeless people living in the Shire, up from 80 in the 2011 Census (source: https://profile.id.com.au/eurobodalla/highlights-2016?Sex=2&AgeKey=105) It is not possible due to these small numbers to get information on age or gender of these people. I have worked with homeless people both professionally and as a volunteer, and my observation is that there are higher levels of women who are experiencing homelessness. This is supported by Australia wide statistics, which show that around 240,000 women aged 55 or older are at risk of homelessness. (source: https://theconversation.com/400-000-women-over-45-are-at-risk-of-homelessness-in-australia-142906
The Council needs to have a long-term focus on providing low cost and social housing for older people especially those who are in poverty. The response to the QON identifies that this may include a discussion about increasing housing densities in some of the Shire’s urban areas. Labor will strongly support such a discussion. We also need to be effective advocates for our community members who are facing or experiencing homelessness to both State and Commonwealth Governments to get the services they need.
There are two important groups which need special attention. These are the Aboriginal members of our community and people who are culturally diverse.
Aboriginal people have a noticeably shorter life span than the general population and are more likely to have health and disability issues.
There are a growing number of services for older Aboriginal people. In the Council’s response there does not appear to be a mention of whether the council is engaged with these services and how it is working with them. This is an important aspect of providing strong aged care services across the shire, and I hope that more detail can be provided on how the council is working with the Aboriginal aged care services.
Our shire is slowly becoming more culturally diverse, and this will influence the services that will be needed for our elderly population from culturally diverse backgrounds. It is a challenge to build viable services to meet this part of our community’s needs. This does not mean that it is impossible. The council could employ a worker to build connections with the different cultural groups in the shire, and work with them to develop services that are relevant to them.
I would like to finish by supporting point five of this question without notice. Eurobodalla Labor will be supporting the development of a Community Services committee. This was established in the Council around 1993 and was a very successful innovation. It provided the council with the wisdom of community members involved in community services, as well as from other professionals in the area, and provided a forum for discussion about community services and council’s involvement.