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Positive about the future but feeling less valued: snapshot of seniors

I’m fit, healthy, enjoy my work, volunteer, do recreational and sporting activities, and am part of a loving family.”

“I am old, tired and depressed.”

The above quotes, provided to Newgate Research as part of a COTA-commissioned survey of over 50s, perhaps sum up its main findings – living in Australia as an older adult seems to be a mixed bag.

The snapshot showed that, generally, older Aussies are feeling pretty peachy, but many are struggling with bills, health and public sentiments.

The State of the (Older) Nation 2018 Report, launched by COTA at Parliament House in Canberra, sought out the views of 2,562 Australians aged 50 and over.

It covered topics like quality of life, employment, health, cost of living, age discrimination and housing.

While some of the report’s findings were seemingly positive – 80 per cent of older Australians feel younger than their current age, 78 per cent rate their quality of life as good and seven in 10 feel positively about what the future holds for them – others prompted calls for government action.

Of those who participated in the research, nearly half (46 per cent) said they feel less valued by society than when they were younger, and only one in five feel valued as a voter.

While health was the main cause of concern for participants, finances were also a challenge for many. One in five older Australians said they have experienced employment-related age discrimination and 12 per cent are struggling with overdue bills. The vast majority feel that they don’t have enough money for leisure or social activities.

Said one participant:

I am worried about the fact that I have no assets and I am not sure how I will be cared for in later years.”

Still, others were rosier about the future:

Can’t think of anything that concerns or worries me.”

COTA chief executive Ian Yates said that while the report showed most older Australians believe they have a good quality of life, the peak is concerned about the number of older adults who feel they’re not coping with the rising cost of living.

“There are also too many older Australians feeling ignored, left behind or discriminated against in society and this report shows action is needed urgently, particularly to address the needs of vulnerable older Australians,” Yates said.

COTA called on all sides of politics to commit to a long-term national strategy to address the needs of older Australians.

Yates said pressing matters included increasing rent assistance by 40 per cent, taking a whole-of-government approach to services for older Australians, and improving access to oral and dental health services for older Australians.

And what did some of those surveyed say was needed to for better outcomes?

More aged care facilities of a higher standard.”

“Retirement age needs to be lower. Asking a manual labourer to work until they are 67 is ridiculous.”

“Lower rates for medical health insurance – it is far too expensive for a pensioner.”

“As a carer for elderly parents and having just had my father in law go through the process of having to be placed into an aged care facility etc., there’s a real need for the Department of Human Services to be more accessible.”

“Being given a fair go when it comes to employment.”

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