Aging in Australia: Different Policies and Services for the Aging Population

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Dylan Kowalchuk
Aging in Australia
Plymouth State University

This paper focuses on aging in Australia, the different policies and services for the aging population, and provides some examples about what it would be like to age in Australia. First, it is important to understand the age care policy in Australia. There are four different components to this policy: the old-aged pension system, pursuit of the aging-in-place policy, self-funded services and supports, and residential and frail aged care. The aged care policy in Australia is “built on the premise of independence and individualization and assumes that older people will remain in the community for as long as they are able to” (Gray & Heinsch, 2009, p. 108). In order to fully understand these different components of this policy, each of them will be looked at more closely.

Old-aged pensions were the first form of income support provided for the aging population and today, nearly two-thirds of retirees in Australia rely on this pension as their main income source (Grey & Heinsch, 2009). Currently, it is required that men be 65 years of age in order to receive this pension, and an estimated 63.5 years of age for women. It is estimated that by 2014, women will also be required to be 65 years old to receive the pension. One component of the old-aged pension is the superannuation guarantee, which was introduced in 1992; it consists of a mandatory employer contribution to a private pension plan, and the rate has been 9% of employee earnings since the 2002-03 tax years (“Australia”, n.d.). According to Gray and Heinsch (2009), aged pensions make up the largest portion of the welfare budget (about $22.6 billion in 2006-2007). Generally, the Australian public seems to be pleased with the old-aged pensions and often desire increases to the pension.

Next there is the pursuit of the aging-in-place policy, and this is maintained through community care. The public opinion in Australia generally sways in favor of community support. Not only are families and neighbors pitching in to help the aging population, but “large religious charities, such as Anglicare, UnitingCare, Benevolent Society, Salvation Army, and St Vincent de Paul, are key providers of formal, paid community care” (Gray & Heinsch, 2009, p. 109). The increasing amount of community care in Australia has led to more informal and unpaid care, where family members and neighborhood services provide assistance with household tasks, such as shopping, cooking, and cleaning and other sorts of chores (Gray & Heinsch, 2009). This type of support is essential for the aging population, as many older people feel that they are a burden when they need help with simple tasks. It is generally the responsibility of the daughter in the family to be responsible for the care of an aging adult, but if they get busy or find that they cannot devote as much time/services that is necessary, this can leave the elderly adult in a sticky situation. “Swedish research has found that older people prefer help from public services rather than having to rely on family and friends” (Gunnarsson 2009; Szebehely and Trydegård 2007). This is one of the reasons it is so crucial for services to be provided for the aging population and that they know where to look for whatever assistance they may need in their lives. In Australia, “there are currently several government-funded programs rendering community-based care, namely, the Aged Care Assessment Program (ACAP), Home and Community Care (HACC), Community Aged Care Package (CACP), and Extended Aged Care at Home (EACH)” (Gray & Heinsch, 2009, p. 110).

The next part of this policy, self-funded services and supports, is exactly what it sounds like: the aging population in Australia is given more responsibility regarding their retirement and finances. This shift is implemented by the Australian government and encourages self-responsibility among the aging population (Gray &...
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