Aged Care

More support needed for Australia’s rapidly ageing population


A new study has found that Australians over 70 are living longer than ever before, but this is putting increasing strain on the healthcare system and highlighting the need for more support services for the elderly.

The research from the University of Adelaide examined health data from 1990 to 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic. It found that in 2019, Australian men had a life expectancy of 86 years old if they reached 70, while women could expect to live to 83.3 years old after 70.

While it’s positive that lifespans are increasing, especially for men, the researchers are concerned about the rising burden this ageing population puts on healthcare resources.

“Further research should focus on targeted programs for support and intervention for these conditions, with the caveat that the landscape may have shifted with changes in care and population illness burden post-COVID,” said lead author Dr Liliana Ciobanu.

The top conditions cutting years off life expectancy for elderly Australians were heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer. But other issues like Parkinson’s, diabetes, kidney disease, and falls are also becoming more prevalent problems.

While some risk factors like smoking rates have decreased over time, the researchers say new threats like climate change could create additional healthcare challenges for older adults. They hope this data highlighting the growing needs of the ageing population will drive policy changes.

Associate Professor Scott Clark stated: “We would like to see the findings of this research informing policymaking and health care practices to address the evolving health care needs of the aging population in Australia.”

“We know COVID differentially affected older Australians in both mortality and anecdotally in access to and quality of care for chronic diseases,” said Associate Professor Clark. “The impact on fatal and non-fatal burden will potentially have significant implications for aged care moving forward.”

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