By 2031, one in three people in NSW will be aged 50 or over. I feel it’s time to re-examine our thoughts on what ageing means on a community level, to better secure our futures.
If Australia was a person, what would they look like? What colour hair would they have? How tall would they be? What would be the colour of their skin?
Obviously, there is no right answer. It is a testament to our nation’s diversity that there is no set picture of what an Australian would like. But one thing is for sure, if we were being honest, the person we pictured would almost certainly be older than ever before.
Who we are as a people, as a community and as a nation is changing. We are getting older. We are living longer than ever before. By 2031, one in three people in NSW will be aged 50 or over.
The ageing population, a seemingly innocuous phrase, carries with it profound implications. This long-discussed demographic shift is changing our homes, parks, workplaces and communities.
Sadly, more often than not, the commentary associated with this change is negative. The typical refrains are that older people, by selfishly living longer, are driving government’s budgets deep into the red, or older people are locking young families out of the housing market.
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Now I admit that being both the Minister for Ageing and 60 years old, I might be a little biased, but when living longer did become a bad thing? There is a great irony for mind that on a personal level our loved ones living longer is a good thing, but on a national level, more people living longer somehow has been turned into a bad thing.
The NSW Government position is absolutely clear – more people living longer is a good thing. Our vision is for older people to be able to live active, healthy and happy lives as they age. The key is ensuring we manage the challenges and maximise the opportunities being created by the ageing population.
It is why the NSW Government developed the whole-of-government, whole-of-community NSW Ageing Strategy in 2012. The first strategy led to the creation of highly successful initiatives, including the Tech Savvy Seniors program and the Elder Abuse Helpline, and has now been renewed from the ground up.
The renewed NSW Ageing Strategy reflects the views of thousands of older people and stakeholders from across NSW. I personally travelled around the state to hear firsthand from older people about the issues affecting their lives. Issues like accessible and affordable housing, age discrimination in the workplace and finding it hard to get around the local community.
The strategy reflects and addresses those concerns. It focuses on five crucial areas – health and wellbeing, working and retiring, housing choices, getting around and inclusive communities.
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But the renewed NSW Ageing Strategy is only one part of the solution. The Government cannot do it on its own. Responding to the challenges of the ageing population requires partnership. That’s why the NSW Government will continue to work closely with other governments and the non-government sector.
What’s more, each and every one of us can play a part in making our community more inclusive and age-friendly. We need to identify and call our ageism in our community. We need to get rid of outdated and offensive notions about what older people can and can’t do. We need to see beyond someone’s age and focus on their ability.
I would encourage everyone to work with the NSW Government and its partners to ensure that older people in NSW not only live longer, but live better than ever as well.