An ageing population provides support and unity to our community, says SCU Professor Colleen Cartwright.
An ageing population provides support and unity to our community, says SCU Professor Colleen Cartwright.

Australian population to age

HIGHER taxes, fewer workers to pay them and a society groaning under the weight of walking frames and pension payments.

That is the doom laden future some are expecting based on Federal Government predictions about the ageing Australian population.

The Federal Treasury’s Intergenerational Report 2010, released earlier this month, contained a snapshot of what Australia will look like in 40 years’ time.

It warned of ‘substantial pressures’ on government services and, by extension, taxpayers as the population gets older.

The report predicts the percentage of Australians aged 65 or more will increase from 13 per cent now to 23pc by 2050.

Yet on the Northern Rivers, the future is already here. What’s more, it doesn’t seem too bad to researchers.

Official figures reported by the Northern Star last Monday revealed the Lismore, Ballina, Richmond Valley and Kyogle local government areas already have a higher proportion of over-65s than the rest of Australia.

Meanwhile, Tweed Shire leads the way on the Northern Rivers with one-in-four of its population already aged over 65.

As a result, researchers from Southern Cross University have decided to work with Tweed Shire Council to determine how to best provide for an older population.

SCU Aged Services and Learning Research Centre director Professor Colleen Cartwright said worrisome predictions about the greying of the population didn’t fit with the Northern Rivers experience.

“There is a lot of misinformation about the impact of an ageing population,” she said.

“A lot of what we hear about an ageing population is doom and gloom. But older people provide a great deal of support in our communities. They are involved in a wide range of volunteer work and are usually very good neighbours. They support the arts and our libraries and contribute a lot of our social capital.”

While the Northern Rivers may be handling the shifting demographics, that does not mean more cannot be done.

Prof Cartwright said the project under way in the Tweed would involve focus groups and surveys to determine the level of services currently provided for over-65s and what other services were needed.

With other council areas on the North Coast also experiencing a rapid increase in the elderly population – the number of residents aged 80 or over in Ballina Shire grew by more than 20pc in the five years to June 2008 – Prof Cartwright said the results in Tweed would be useful to other local gov-ernment areas across the region.



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