- Financial stress is the key reason for feeling like things are getting worse (59% mentioned this, compared to 31% in the previous survey).
- Age-related discrimination is an endemic issue with 1 in 3 reporting they had experienced age-related discrimination since turning 50 years old.
- Decline in the proportion of those feeling positive about what the future personally holds for them, from 70% in 2018 to 65% in 2021 and only 60% in 2023.
- The high cost of essential goods, basic necessities and medical care is putting a significant strain on the budgets of older Australians, leaving them feeling increasingly vulnerable.
- COTA calls on Government to develop a whole-of-government strategy for older Australians and an ageing Australia, including improving the cost of living pressures, especially for those who rent.
SYDNEY, 13 April 2023 – The future is looking increasingly grim for older Australians, with research today released by the COTA Federation revealing almost half (45%) of older Australians believe that things are getting worse for them, a figure which has climbed significantly since 2021 (when 33% felt this way).
In its third edition, State of the Older Nation (SOTON) details the experiences and views of 2,750 Australians aged 50 and over, and this year paints a bleak picture. The COTA Federation 2023 Report highlights an overarching pessimism that is underpinned by fewer older Australians feeling financially secure, more reporting difficulties accessing health services, reports of age discrimination and worries about their risk of homelessness – with sentiments even worse among vulnerable people.
After another year of living with COVID-19, combined with natural disasters at home, conflict overseas, chronic national housing shortages and cost-of-living pressures, including an energy crisis, it is perhaps unsurprising that COTA’s 2023 report paints a picture of a cohort anxious about the future.
“The cumulative effect of these pressures means that many are struggling to maintain their optimism and a hopeful future outlook. We cannot leave older people feeling isolated and unsupported, we urgently need Government to find ways to support older Australians,” said COTA Australia Chair, Jane Halton AO PSM.
The high cost of essential goods and basic necessities is putting a significant strain on the budgets of older Australians, leaving them feeling increasingly vulnerable. Out of the respondents who think things are getting worse, the top reason for this thinking was the cost of living with six out of ten mentioning it as a factor, which has almost doubled since 2021 (when 31% mentioned the cost of living as a reason).
“Though we are pleased with the outcome of this year’s Federal Budget which provided some relief on the pressures older Australians are facing, there is still more to do. The hip pocket of older Australians especially, older pensioners who rent, are still strained. Increasing Commonwealth Rent Assistance and making sure increases to the pension are timely will help ease the financial stress,” said COTA Federation Chair Joan Hughes.
1 in 3 older Australians also report they have experienced some form of age related discrimination. Most prominent when seeking employment, it also is reported when visiting businesses, using financial services, looking to rent or buy property or even when getting visiting Government services.
In addition, the inability to access medical services is another factor contributing to the growing sense of pessimism among older Australians. As the population ages, the demand for healthcare services is increasing, but the resources available to meet this demand are not keeping pace leaving older people feeling isolated and unsupported.
“Ageism is a perverse challenge which permeates the lives of older Australians and sits underlying this wider trend of growing insecurity,” says the CEO of COTA Australia, Patricia Sparrow. “The report’s findings underscore the need for the Australian Government to develop a national strategy for older people so policymakers take urgent steps to address the concerns of older Australians to ensure they are more secure and resilient in the future.”
Key findings from the study include:
- Negative personal expectations for the future reflects a broader pessimistic outlook: As well as overarching worries and concerns, there has been a steady wave on-wave decline in the proportion of those feeling positive above what the future personally holds for them, from 70% in 2018 to 65% in 2021 and only 60% in 2023. Reported social, mental, and physical health does not seem to have bounced back to pre-COVID levels. Of concern, nearly one in five older Australians (19%) feel quite worried about what the future holds for them, and this is linked to poorer mental, physical and financial health.
- Cost of living pressures are impacting the quality of life: As the cost of living continues to rise, older Australians are becoming increasingly pessimistic about their financial prospects, with fewer now seeing themselves as very financially secure. Older Australians who report being in a poor financial situation are particularly affected, with financial stress being the key reason for feeling like things are getting worse (59% mentioned this, compared to 31% in the previous survey).
- Increasing difficulty in accessing health services: Older Australians have faced increasing difficulty accessing medical services, especially vulnerable groups. Reasons include long waiting lists and costs. Difficulty in access is markedly more likely to be experienced by some more vulnerable groups such as those who are unemployed, living with a disability, speak a language other than English or have experienced a significant loss of income in the last 12 months.
- 1 in 4 workers feel they will never retire, with vulnerable groups especially likely to feel this way. Around a quarter (24%) of older Australians who are still working feel they will never retire, with those in financially precarious or vulnerable positions significantly more likely to feel this way.
- 35% of older Australians have experienced some form of age-related discrimination since turning 50. Employment-related discrimination is the most common form, either in the workplace or when seeking employment – 24% of older Australians have experienced it, which remains consistent with the previous survey (26%).
The full report is available at this http://www.stateoftheoldernation.org.au/
Disclaimer: The research was undertaken by SEC Newgate Research in compliance with the Australian Polling Council Quality Mark standards. The Long Methodology Disclosure Statement for this research can be viewed here: https://www.newgatecomms.com.au/disclosure-statements/