Ageing communities: Policy blind spots

Policy makers have been talking about population ageing, ageing-in-place and age-friendly communities for several years. But has there been any progress? The focus is still on residential care homes and this is the policy blind spot. Most older Australians are living in their own homes. So how do policies support them? And what about renters?

Three housing researchers analysed 85 policy documents against the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines on age-friendly cities. They found these policies reflected outdated views of older age. That’s because the policy focus in on care and support services. This means less attention to housing, transport, walkability and cultural diversity.

Most older Australians aren’t in aged care – they are living in the community.

Policy blind spots mean they live in communities that aren’t age-friendly.

Being age-friendly for older people means age-friendly for all ages.

A child is kneeling down by the side of a lily pond. Her mother on one side and her grandmother on the other, also kneeling down. Grandfather is standing behind watching them.

The research also reveals a failure to recognise the diversity and impact of the ageing process. In particular, is the lack of recognition of diverse cultural needs.

“There is almost a complete blindness to their impacts on ageing and other social determinants of health.” Regardless most older Australians want to live where they are.

Two women sit on a bird nest swing.

For more on this topic see Most older Australians aren’t in aged care. Policy blind spots mean they live in communities that aren’t age-friendly in The Conversation.

Stay put or go? Renters lack choice

In another study, researchers asked what motivates older homeowners and renters to age where they are or to relocate. It seems older renters are not given a fair choice. For homeowners, family ties matter.

Owners with children living nearby were more likely to want to stay. They might then have a reason to call on their housing wealth and become the “bank of mum and dad”. Renters, however, want the same choice but face the most disruption. Many had to move out of their neighbourhood to find a place to rent.

This is another area where policy change is needed and for many, social housing is the answer. However, social housing is in short supply.

A family room with a couch, cushions and a throw.

For more see Should I stay or should I go? Most older Australians want to retire where they are, but renters don’t always get a choice, in The Conversation.

There’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon with the new Livable Housing Design Standard. This mandated Standard in the National Construction Code provides for accessible features such as a level entry into the home. It will support many more people to age in place and reduce the need for costly home modifications.

While it will take many years for new accessible homes to make an impact, it does mean that rental housing will be included in mainstream housing stock. However, states and territories are showing reluctance to adopt this essential Standard in the face of industry lobbying. But none of us is getting any younger.

See CUDA’s short online course which provides all the technical detail for implementing the Livable Housing Design Standard.

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