With one in three older women living in income poverty, Mission Australia is using tomorrow’s International Day of Older Persons to call for government action on accommodation for homeless older women.

Without an increase in appropriate affordable housing, the numbers of vulnerable older women without a safe place to live would continue to climb, the charity says.

Mission Australia’s CEO Catherine Yeomans said that given the housing affordability crisis, older women and single older women who were renting were particularly vulnerable to rental stress and at risk of homelessness.

“Small changes in their financial circumstances can affect their ability to pay rent such as if their landlord puts up the rent, unexpected health costs arise or there is a rise in their electricity bill,” she said.

“They can be forced to dip into their limited retirement savings, if any, to make ends meet. We know that women tend to have less superannuation than men. When that dries up, they then fall into unstable, unsuitable accommodation such as refuges, hostels or onto the streets.”

The call from Mission Australia follows a report earlier this month by The Benevolent Society which found 1.5 million older Australians relied on the Age Pension and almost a third of them were living in poverty (read that story here).

Other recent studies have consistently highlighted the urgent need for affordable seniors housing.

In March Australian Ageing Agenda reported on a study that found one in three older Australian women were living in long-term income poverty (read that story here).

In the lead-up to International Day of Older Persons on 1 October, Mission Australia said that women who became homeless for the first time in later life were likely to have been private renters with a stable housing history.

But homelessness may be triggered by a crisis such as widowhood, marital breakdown, a health crisis or financial difficulties after retirement, the charity said.

It urged the Commonwealth and state governments to facilitate funding of at least 200,000 new social homes by 2025 and capital works programs to update existing social infrastructure.

The organisation also called for a pipeline of new affordable housing facilitated by leveraging private investment.

Want to have your say on this story? Comment below. Send us your news and tip-offs to editorial@australianageingagenda.com.au 

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  1. if anyone is aware of a service that can match these homeless/ at risk women to older people who want to stay in their own homes but would be safer/ more independent with another person there, I would love to know about it. I have one client in particular who would love to stay in her own house, but really needs someone around at least some of the time. however, she is reluctant to just advertise because “you never know who you might get” My focus is SA Northern country, but any relevant information would be of some use to somebody.

  2. Women of retirement age today, generally did not have access to, or were discouraged from taking out, superannuation. Often the husband’s superannuation was regarded as sufficient for both marriage partners, no one expected the divorce rate to rise as it did. Women were often forced to give up their jobs when they married or had children and few then were re employed on a permanent basis. They were regarded as the lesser employed and followed their husbands wherever their jobs took them. They were the care givers of the family and frequently less well educated. They were denied access to housing loans because they were women and rarely could re establish a housing basis for themselves, and frequently, for their children as well. It was only relatively recently that divorce gave access to the equal distribution of superannuation between divorce parties. Many women and their children live in financially and socially vulnerable situations for a large part of their lives, not through choice but because our society did not value them. They were, and in many cases, still are, second class citizens. If we allow these valuable members of our society to languish on the streets or in appalling circumstances when they become the vulnerable elderly then we are an appalling society. The housing of the elderly needs to be a priority for our society. Access to housing for all age groups is a fundamental need in any society and the basis for stability. Housing should be taken off the investment list and put in the same category as health, education and transport.

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