4430.0 - Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2015 Quality Declaration 
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 18/10/2016   
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OLDER PEOPLE


As in most developed countries, Australia’s population is ageing. Understanding the characteristics of older Australians (those aged 65 years and over), as well as their needs is becoming increasingly important. In 2015, there were an estimated 3.5 million older Australians, representing one in every seven people (15.1%). This proportion has increased from 14.3% in 2012 and 13.3% in 2009.


Population characteristics

Most older Australians (94.8%) were living in households in 2015, while one in twenty (5.2%) lived in cared accommodation such as nursing homes and aged care hostels. Over one-quarter (26.8%) of all older people lived alone.

There are differences in the distribution of older Australians (living in households) between the states and territories. In 2015, both Tasmania and South Australia had significantly higher proportions of older people as a percentage of their total population than other states (17.8% and 16.7%, respectively), while the Northern Territory had the smallest proportion of older people (7.6%).

Graph Image for Persons aged 65 years and over(a) - Proportion of total population, by State and Territory(b), 2015

Footnote(s): (a) Living in households (b) Excludes very remote areas, which make up 22.9% of the total NT population

Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings—2015



Disability

While the proportion of people in Australia aged 65 years and over continues to increase, the prevalence of disability amongst older people has decreased. Around half (50.7%) of older people had a disability in 2015, down from 52.7% in 2012. Of these older Australians living with disability, the proportion that reported a profound or severe limitation dropped from 38.5% in 2012 to 36.4% in 2015. The proportion with a moderate limitation remained stable between 2012 and 2015 (15.5% and 14.0%). In contrast, the proportion of older Australians with a mild limitation rose from 37.4% in 2012 to 39.7% in 2015. These levels of limitation are described in more detail in the Glossary.

In 2015, people aged 80 years and over represented almost three quarters (72.1%) of all residents in cared accommodation. Just 1.5% of people aged 65 to 79 years lived in cared accommodation. The vast majority (96.5%) of older residents in cared accommodation had some disability, with most (97.9% of those with disability) indicating that their disability was profound or severe.


Conceptual Framework: Older persons, by disability status and living arrangements, 2015

Image: Conceptual Framework: Older persons, by disability status and living arrangements, 2015

Source: ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings—2015


Need for assistance

As people age they are more likely to require assistance with everyday activities such as household chores and transport, regardless of whether they have a disability or not. The proportion of all older Australians who needed assistance with at least one activity decreased to 38.6% in 2015, down from 41.9% in 2012. Assistance was most commonly needed for health care tasks (22.9%), such as taking medications, and property maintenance (20.2%).

Older women were more likely to need assistance with at least one activity (45.5%) than men (30.7%).
Women were also more likely than men to need assistance with certain types of tasks, such as mobility (19.7%, compared with 11.9%), property maintenance (24.6%, compared with 15.3%) and household chores (21.7%, compared with 9.7%).

Graph Image for Persons aged 65 years and over who needed assistance - Type of assistance needed, by sex, 2015

Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings—2015



Service use

In 2015, 1.2 million older people living in households needed assistance with everyday activities. The informal providers most likely to provide that support were their spouse or partner (35.0%), followed by their daughter (21.0%). The most common formal providers of assistance were private commercial organisations (38.5%), followed by government organisations (27.3%).

Of those needing assistance, the most commonly reported informal assistance received were for reading or writing tasks (91.3%), communication (90.5%) and mobility (88.3%). In contrast, formal assistance was most commonly received for health care (64.8%) and household chores (48.1%).

Whether need for assistance was met

Of all Australians with disability who were living in households, older people were more likely to report that their need for assistance had been met in full (67.4%) than those aged under 65 years (58.2%). Despite this, similar proportions of older people and people under the age of 65 years reported that their needs had not been met at all (around 2% for both groups).


Long-term health conditions

The proportion of older Australians with a long-term health condition, that is, a disease or disorder that has lasted, or is likely to last, for six months or more, has remained relatively stable in recent years. Almost nine in ten (87.2%) older Australians reported that they had one or more long-term health conditions in 2015. This is similar to the 2012 rate of 86.6%.

In 2015, of those older Australians with one or more long-term health conditions, the most commonly reported main conditions were arthritis and related disorders (16.0%), hypertension (9.2%) and back problems (9.2%), which is consistent with the 2012 findings (16.3%, 10.6% and 9.4%, respectively).

The proportion of older Australians with a mental or behavioural disorder as their main condition was 6.5%, with 2.8% of all older people reporting Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease as their main long term health condition.


Income

Many older Australians have accumulated assets, such as their own homes and savings, which can be used to support their living into retirement. In 2015, 71.7% of older people living in households reported owning their own homes outright, compared with 9.5% who had a mortgage. Of the remaining 18.6% of older people, 12.4% reported that they rented their home, and 6.2% reported that they lived rent free or had other housing arrangements that were outside these categories, such as life tenure and shared equity schemes.

While the SDAC does not collect detailed information about wealth, it does collect information about the income of older people.

In 2015, the main source of income for two-thirds (62.9%) of Australians aged 65 years and over living in households was a government pension or allowance, similar to the rate in 2012 (64.7%). Older people with disability were more likely to receive a government pension or allowance as their main source of income than those without disability (72.7% compared with 53.6%).

One in ten (10.1%) older people without disability received a wage or salary as their main source of income, compared with 3.6% of older people with disability.

Of those older people who reported their income, two-thirds (67.3%) lived in a household with an equivalised gross household income that was in the lowest two quintiles. This proportion has decreased from 74.6% in 2012. Only a small proportion (6.1%) of older Australians lived in a household with an equivalised gross household income in the highest quintile, similar to 5.3% in 2012.

Graph Image for Persons aged 15 years and over(a) - Equivalised gross household income quintiles(b), by age, 2015

Footnote(s): (a) Living in households (b) Excludes people whose household income was not known

Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings—2015



Social participation

Many older Australians are active members of their communities with strong social connections. In 2015, almost all older Australians living in households had participated in one or more social activities at home (97.9%) or outside the home (93.6%) in the last 3 months. The majority of older people interacted with their family or friends through telephone calls (93.2%), being visited at home (90.7%) or visiting them (85.8%). Over three-quarters (76.8%) had participated in at least one cultural or physical activity away from home, in the 12 months prior to the survey.

Older Australians were more active in 2015. The proportion of older people living in households who participated in physical activities for exercise or recreation increased, from 44.5% in 2012 to 49.2% in 2015. Almost one-quarter (23.4%) of older men participated in sport in 2015, up from 21.3% in 2012. In contrast, 13.1% of older women participated in sport in 2015, no significant increase from 2012 (12.2%).

A considerable proportion of older people participated in a range of cultural activities in 2015. Almost half (47.8%) of older people living in households had attended a movie, concert, theatre or performing arts event in the 12 months before the survey, while almost a quarter (23.5%) had visited a museum or art gallery.

Older people make a considerable economic and social contribution to the community through unpaid work. In 2015, almost one in five (18.6%) older Australians living in households were actively involved in voluntary or community service activities outside the home in the previous three months.