Above: CEO of National Seniors Australia, Michael O’Neill
By Lillian Radulova
A new online toolkit will see local governments meet the challenges that come with our ageing population.
The Planning for an Ageing Population toolkit, launched yesterday by the NSW government, will focus on helping councils manage and adjust their finances, resources, community services, and asset management planning to provide for older members of the community.
Key consumer and lobby group, National Seniors Australia, believes the toolkit represents a step in a positive direction for the state government.
“Their key points are very relevant,” CEO of National Seniors Australia, Michael O’Neill said.
“Importantly, they’ve identified that seniors are a changing group whose needs in 2010 will be different to seniors in 2030. Really remaining contemporary with what people need and want is a positive.”
But, Mr O’Neill said, the terminology used in the media statement to launch the toolkit –the phrase ‘age proofing’ council – ironically works against the values the state government sought to promote.
“It’s too easy to throw around terminology of that kind,” he said. “When was the last time you saw toolkits to help ‘child proof’ councils, or ‘teenager proof’ councils? It’s poor taste.”
Mr O’Neill said that the more interaction there is between the aged care and local government sectors, the better.
“It’s a start; it’s being recognised that there’s an opportunity here to improve these areas… [but the] proof will always be in how well councils are effective in rolling it out.”
The NSW Minister for Local Government, Don Page, officially announced that the toolkit will guide councils on how to “prepare for, provide for, and best utilise the residents of an ageing population”.
“Local governments are well positioned to deal with the impacts of changing populations because they can ensure that the physical, social and economic environment of their communities are responsive to demographic change, and can provide services and programs that are flexible and appropriate,” Mr Page said.
“Population trends prove councils will have to understand what an ageing population will mean for them – by ignoring it, communities could be ill-equipped to cope.”
The toolkit uses data from the state governments’ Local Government and Ageing Research report, which looked at uncovering the key impacts of ageing populations on councils, developed using information from surveys and focus groups from a selection of NSW local governments with varying demographics within their districts.
The report stresses the necessity to identify the different requirements of an ageing population such as the need for more community halls rather than playgrounds and the need for extra community transport options during the day.
It also suggests recognising the skills offered by retired professionals for volunteer and community programs, as well as the change in demand for community services, for example bingo losing popularity while the demand for more active and mentally stimulating pastimes grow.