Author Dr Emma Fitzsimons
Expert reviewer Dr Dina LoGiudice
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have different age structures from the non-Indigenous population, due to high fertility and increased mortality at all ages, giving a much lower median age (20.2 years vs 36.3 years). The aged population is therefore smaller as a proportion, with 7% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people being over 55 years and only 3% over 65 years. The corresponding figures for non-Indigenous Australians are 22% and 13% respectively.1 In 2006 this amounted to 40 297 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over 55 years, or 0.8% of the over 55 years total Australian population. This contrasts with almost 5 million non-Indigenous people in the same age group. Of the total Australian population aged 75 years and older, only 0.4% (5000 people) identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. However, demographic shifts are occurring, and the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over 55 years is projected to double between 2006 and 2021.2 The care of the elderly is becoming more important as the population ages. In addition, many of the disorders which affect elderly people occur at younger ages for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Many areas of preventive care for the elderly are covered in other chapters of the National Guide, in particular vision (Chapter 6), hearing (Chapter 7), respiratory disease (Chapter 11) and cardiovascular health (Chapter 12). This chapter will cover three important issues relating to the elderly not covered elsewhere in the guide: osteoporosis, falls and dementia.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics. Older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: a snapshot, 2004–2005, cat. no. 4722.0.55.002. Canberra: ABS, 2007. Cited October 2011. Available at www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/ abs@.nsf/mf/4722.0.55.002.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics. Experimental estimates and projections, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, cat. no. 3238.0. Canberra: ABS, 2009. Cited October 2011. Available at www.ausstats.abs.gov.au/ Ausstats/subscriber.nsf/0/27B5997509AF75AECA25762A001D0337/ $File/32380_1991%20to%202021.pdf.