The Australian Research Council’s Linkage Project scheme has awarded a $290,000 grant to the University of Tasmania’s Rural Healthy Ageing Research Team for a project aimed at ensuring Australia’s elderly population remain social assets.
The three-year study will focus on rural regions in Tasmania as the basis for national strategy development.
The project has also secured funding and resources from the state’s Department of Health and Human Services and the Tasmanian Council of Social Services.
It will address the looming social and economic challenges flowing from an ageing population by addressing triggers to social disengagement and design service frameworks that can be used before people become isolated and dependent.
It is projected that more than a quarter of the Australian population – about 7.2 million people – will be 65 or older by 2050.
At current rates, this will increase the national health bill from 1.4 per cent of the population in 2000-01 to 8 per cent by 2044-45.
Professor Walker said these trends will dominate rural regions where the outward migration of younger people and arrival of later life “seachangers” would exacerbate an already older population profile.
“For almost one-third of people aged 65 and older who live in rural and remote areas the challenges of ageing are compounded by poorer underlying health and mortality figures, rapid change and the decline of an already inequitable service base,” she said.