Councils questioned over ability to respond to ageing population

A projected doubling of the older population within three decades has sparked disputes over the councils’ readiness to cater for the needs of elderly residents.

NSW Planning Minister, Kristina Keneally has released new population data, which project a 33 per cent increase in the state’s population to over nine million by 2036.

The growth curve will be most salient in the population aged 65 and over, with the age group tipped to expand by a staggering 111 per cent, representing 21.5 per cent of the state’s entire population. 

NSW Council on the Ageing (COTA) said the data were worrying as a recent survey revealed only 15 of the state’s councils had a strategy on ageing in place.

“What we’d like to see is all local councils working with organisations like the Council on the Ageing to actually put in place ageing strategies,” COTA spokesperson Anne-Marie Elias told ABC.
“[We need] plans that are going to make it a lot easier towards 2036 in how our cities are designed and built, and how our parts are accessible and how our buildings are accessible.”

According to the figures, Sydney will need to absorb an extra 1.72 million residents as the population is expected to soar to six million, an increase of 40 per cent. The added population translates into the need for 636,000 more houses by 2021, with the size of household slightly shrinking from 2.61 people to 2.51. 

The Local Government and Shires Associations of NSW (LGSA) rebuked COTA’s claim that many NSW councils were unprepared, saying the survey was misleading and councils were constantly developing new projects targeted at senior residents.

“We were surprised at recent media reports that claimed only 10 per cent of councils have an ageing strategy and that councils aren’t doing enough,” LGSA president Genia McCaffery said.

“The statistic was based on a survey by the Department of Local Government where councils were asked if they prepared one specific type of report.

“Councils consider the needs of current and future senior residents in more decisions they make and activities they undertake and any claim to the contrary is false,” Cr McCaffery said.

She said among the councils’ initiatives for ageing communities were community housing programs, senior citizens’ centres, healthy livings, home delivery library services, and modifications to footpaths, street furniture and roadways.

President of the Shires Association of NSW, Bruce Miller said a new demographic tool was being trialled in five councils to better plan for the ageing population.

“The Resource for Ageing Population Planning (RAPP), an initiative of the Local Government and Shires Associations, will allow councils to project the population of their area by age, which will help in long-term planning,” Cr Miller said.

“Senior residents contribute a great deal to our communities and councils pride themselves on returning that support and planning for them.”

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