Figures 2 and 3 illustrate Australia’s standing in the world in terms of life expectancies and health-adjusted life expectancy.
Reproduced with permission from World Health Organization. Life expectancy at birth, both sexes, 2016. Geneva: WHO, 2016. [Accessed 19 November 2019].
Life expectancy at birth, both sexes, 2016
Reproduced with permission from World Health Organization. Health Adjusted Life Expectancy (HALE) at birth, both sexes, 2016. Geneva: WHO, 2016. [Accessed 19 November 2019].
Health-adjusted life expectancy (HALE) at birth, both sexes, 2016
According to the ABS,3
there were around 3.5 million older Australians in 2015, which represents one in every seven people, or 15.1% of the population. This number is predicted to increase to an estimated 7.5 million by 2047, which represents around 20% of the population (Figure 4).
Reproduced with permission from Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Older Australia at a glance. Cat. no. AGE 87. Canberra: AIHW, 2018. [Accessed 19 November 2019].
Proportion of the Australian population aged 65 years and older4
The ABS estimates that in 2016, approximately half of all people aged 65–74 years (51%) and 75–84 years (54%) were women; however, in those aged ≥85 years, 63% were women.5 The proportion of women aged ≥85 years has been on the decline, from a peak of 73% in 1982.6
Diverse groups of older Australians
Most older Australians are living longer and in better health than the previous generations. Some groups face disadvantages that affect their mental and physical health as well as opportunities for social and economic engagement within their communities.
The Aged Care Act 1997 describes some populations as people with care needs that should be taken into consideration, including:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
In 2016, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples accounted for 3% (650,000) of the total Australian population (Figure 5; refer to Part B. Older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples). Of these:4,7
- 17% (108,000) were aged ≥50 years
- 5% (31,000) were aged ≥65 years (compared with 16% of non-Indigenous Australians)
- <1% (<6500) were aged ≥85 years (compared with 2.1% of non-Indigenous Australians).
Reproduced with permission from: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Trends in Indigenous mortality and life expectancy 2011–2015 – Evidence from the enhanced mortality database. Canberra: AIHW, 2017.
Distribution of reported Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians by sex and age, 2011–157
Culturally and linguistically diverse populations
Australia has a multicultural community (refer to Part B. Multiculturalism in aged care) where in people aged ≥65 years in 2016:4,8
- one-third (33%) were born overseas, compared with 25% in 1981
- one-fifth (20%) were born in a non-English speaking country
- 10% were born in the UK and Ireland
- the most common non–English speaking countries of birth were Italy (3%), Greece (2%) and Germany (0.91%)
- the most common non-English languages spoken were Italian, Greek and Chinese.
In 2016, older Australians were living as follows:4,8
- 66% (2.4 million) in major cities
- 32% (1.2 million) in inner regional and outer regional areas
- 1% (52,600) in remote or very remote areas
- 33% in New South Wales
- 25% in Victoria
Older Australians make up:
- 19% of Tasmania’s population
- 18% of South Australia’s population
- 16% of New South Wales’s population
- 15% of Queensland’s population
- 7% of Northern Territory’s population, which reflects larger Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations.
The prevalence of disability among older people has decreased from 52.7% in 2012 to 50.7% in 2015 (refer to Part B. Disability in aged care). 9
The proportion of older people with a profound or severe limitation decreased from 38.5% in 2012 to 36.4% in 2015. The proportion of older people with a moderate limitation remained stable between 2012 and 2015 (15.5% and 14.0%). The proportion of older people with a mild limitation increased from 37.4% in 2012 to 39.7% in 2015.9
In 2015, people aged ≥80 years represented almost three-quarters (72.1%) of all residents in care accommodation. The clear majority (96.5%) of older residents in cared accommodation had some disability, most with profound or severe disability.
The proportion of older people who need assistance is also steadily rising, particularly in the healthcare sector (Figure 6).9
Reproduced with permission from: Australian Bureau of Statistics. Disability, ageing and carers, Australia: Summary of findings, 2015. Canberra: ABS, 2015. [Accessed 1 May 2019].
Persons aged ≥65 years who needed assistance, type of assistance needed, by sex, 20189
In 2017, dementia was the second leading cause of death in Australia; in 2015, it was the fourth leading cause of disease and injury burden in Australia (refer to Part A. Dementia). A majority (71%) of dementia hospitalisations are of the highest complexity. This reflects the fact that people with dementia have other health conditions and are more likely to have high-care needs.
More than 50% of residents in RACFs have dementia, with a large proportion of the remaining residents experiencing some form of cognitive impairment. Those residents without cognitive impairment experience even higher levels of physical disability. The number of people with dementia is expected to increase.10
In 2018, it was found that 50% of people in RACFs experience depression. The majority of residents in RACFs are diagnosed with at least one mental health or behavioural disorder (refer to Part A. Mental health).11
In 2015, 1.2 million older people living in households needed assistance with everyday activities. The provision of that support was undertaken by:4
- informal assistance
- spouse or partner (35.0%)
- daughter (21.0%)
- formal assistance
- private commercial organisations (38.5%)
- government organisations (27.3%)
The most common informal assistance was for reading or writing tasks (91.3%), communication (90.5%) and mobility (88.3%). Formal assistance was most commonly required for healthcare (64.8%) and household chores (48.1%).
Long-term health conditions
A little more than 87% of older Australians reported that they had one or more long-term health conditions in 2015. The most commonly reported conditions were arthritis and related disorders (16.0%), hypertension (9.2%) and back problems (9.2%).4
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.4
Many older Australians demonstrate strong social participation. In 2015, almost all (97.9%) older Australians participated in one or more social activities in the preceding three months. Older people interacted with their family or friends through telephone calls (93.2%), being visited at home (90.7%) or visiting them (85.8%). More than three-quarters (76.8%) participated in at least one cultural or physical activity outside of the home environment in the preceding 12 months.3
Older Australians’ physical activity levels increased in 2015. Those who lived in households who participated in physical activities for exercise or recreation increased from 44.5% in 2012 to 49.2% in 2015. In 2015, 23.4% of older men participated in sport in 2015, an increase from 2012 (21.3%). In contrast, older women’s participation in sport was stable 13.1% (2015) compared to 12.2% (2012).3
Older people are active participants in cultural activities, where half of older people (47.8%) attended a movie, concert, theatre or performing arts event in the 12 months before the survey, and almost a quarter (23.5%) had visited a museum or art gallery. In 2015, almost 20% of Australian older people were involved in voluntary and community activities.3