The Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing asks all political parties to give a considered response to our blueprint, and to invite us to work with them in enacting the recommendations as soon as possible, writes Everald Compton.
People are growing older and are doing so at a far greater rate than ever before in the history of the world. All nations now face a considerable social and economic revolution as a result.
If we act now, we can ensure that we will turn ageing into a significant social and economic asset, not a liability, and the Blueprint for an Ageing Australia that we present to the nation strives to do exactly this.
Let me briefly outline the key recommendations.
The challenge of ageing is so great that the enormous task of turning it into a powerhouse for the nation must be the responsibility of no less a leader than the Prime Minister.
There must be a Minister for Ageing within his office who has cabinet status and implements the PM’s ageing policies, coordinating action across all departments, as well as with state and local governments, community institutions, First Australians and culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
Older Australians are a rapidly growing economic force in the marketplace, but they are largely ignored by providers of goods and services who fail to observe that they have special needs that can be a huge source of sales income for them. One day soon, the ageing market will be THE market. By meeting their needs in innovative ways, the economy will be transformed.
Of special note is the opportunity to export ageing services to the world. Every nation has a huge ageing problem and few are currently equipped to face it. Australia has the expertise to provide the services and products that will take them through this demographic crisis. We also have the capital to invest in all the social infrastructure they will need.
Austrade must lead the campaign, as the very considerable export income we can earn from this will more than cover the losses we are sustaining as the result of the end of the mining boom and the collapse of the car industry.
Another huge opportunity is to create a business environment in which Seniors can become entrepreneurs if they plan to do so well before they reach the traditional retirement age.
To make sure this happens, we will initiate steps to establish a Senior Entrepreneurs Institute to foster this initiative and provide practical assistance to those who take it up.
Mature age employment
Discrimination against older workers who want to remain in, or re-enter, the workforce is rampant. As the result, Australia loses billions of dollars in productivity every year, while it adds unnecessary billions to welfare rolls.
Sadly, all three levels of government are even worse offenders in this area of discrimination than corporate Australia. A social revolution to remove this primitive outlook is long overdue.
Worst of all are State Governments who discriminate enormously by denying Work Cover to senior employees, as they are unfairly deemed to be great risks.
The Blueprint recommends expanding investment in programs of skills training to enable older workers to keep up to date in a rapidly and constantly changing world.
Australians have never been wealthier and there is a particularly stable middle-class, as well as an ever-expanding group of the wealthy.
We have the potential to involve thousands of senior Australians in establishing charitable trusts and foundations, which will work for Australia long after they have departed and be a powerhouse for the long-term funding of education, science, health, homelessness.
Those who have financial means that are not as great as others can participate in a similar manner by opening personal accounts within community foundations who will competently manage their philanthropy in the years ahead.
We have made specific recommendations about this, and will establish a Golden Givers Foundation to promote and manage this positive enhancement of community life with the active co-operation of Australia’s banks.
Above all, we advocate a strong dose of encouragement for the many thousands of volunteers who work for our nation’s charities — most of whom are seniors. They cannot afford the heavy premiums that insurance companies charge them for protection against legal actions that stem from accidents. Governments must protect and foster them through adequate legislation.
The hard work now begins.
My panel asks all political parties operating at federal, state and local government levels to give a considered response to this blueprint, and to invite us to work with them to ensure that it all happens as soon as possible.
But, they will need the support of the business and financial communities, as well as the not-for-profit institutions and the media, if dynamic progress is to be made throughout society in making ageing a positive, not a negative.
We intend to stay with this task for the long haul. We hope that you will too.
Everald Compton is chair of the Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing. This is an edited extract of his address at the National Press Club on Wednesday. His full remarks are available here. The blueprint in full is available here.