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How Australia's Ageing Population Will Impact Our Industries

Ageing Population in Australia

The Australian Government predicts that people aged 65 and over will comprise 22 per cent of the population by 2056.

This means that over the next 38 years we can expect our retirement-aged population to increase by nearly 5 million people.

Such a demographic shift is going to present the country with a range of challenges. But where there are challenges, there are also opportunities.

The ageing population will influence how a wide range of industries operate in the future. And those industries will need adaptive, agile and creative professionals to innovate and find solutions to the challenges faced.

So how are some of these industries preparing for that future? And what sort of issues will the students of today be tackling when they enter the workforce?

Connecting older people to communities

Social work plays a key role in helping people retain a good quality of life as they get older. Robin Harvey, a lecturer in the Master of Gerontology at Charles Sturt University (CSU), explained some of the key aspects that social workers in the future will face with regards to an ageing population.

“A key thing for elderly people is the capacity to stay in their home. This is what most people want to do, and what the government would like them to do as well because it is cheaper to look after older people in their own homes than provide full residential care for them.

But in order for that to work well, you need communities that have resources that can sustain people. That means things like suitable housing for older people, ensuring the walkability of the community, sufficient public transport (particularly in rural areas), and good internet connections to help people stay in touch with one another.

That’s all important for healthy social connections. Social isolation is very detrimental to health. And older people have a lot to contribute. Lots of people in retirement have time and experience to offer. But if they are restricted from getting around or communicating effectively, not only do they suffer from social isolation, their expertise is underutilised.

Social workers are involved in helping people and communities with these issues, and advocating for policies and resources that ensure it can happen.”

Ms Harvey also pointed out that such considerations actually benefit communities as a whole.

“Improving these things is not just about elderly people; the things you would do for them would have multiple values across different social sectors. Better, cheaper public transport, for instance, would help elderly people, but also mean that lower income families and mothers with young children could get around more easily – again reducing social isolation and aiding a sense of community. What benefits older people is often good for all of us.”

Shifts in demographics means healthcare expands

The ageing population will also present career opportunities in the field of healthcare – from gerontology to nursing – as outlined by Maree Bernoth, Associate Professor of Nursing at CSU.

“The growing number of older people means that healthcare workers can work with people from preconception right through the lifespan so that patients have quality of life throughout their lives. That’s exciting for healthcare workers. More people living longer is a sign of a successful society, but we want people to age so they don’t have co-morbidities and chronic health problems that some of our current older cohort of people have.
“And as we understand more about the ageing process and effects on it through research, frontline healthcare staff like nurses can help people apply this knowledge to ensure their quality of life, such as health promotion about lifestyle choices as we age.”

Solving the challenges of Australia’s future

As the nature of Australia’s population changes, industries will need to adapt. And having skilled, innovative professionals in those industries will be the major reason why they will rise to the challenges ahead – and ensure Australia’s ageing population gets the quality of life it deserves.

This article was produced for Career FAQs by Charles Sturt University.

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