Aged care leaders were among the 1,000 business and community leaders who slept out last night to raise funds and community awareness of homelessness.
All funds raised from the Vinnies CEO Sleepout go towards helping Australia’s estimated 100,000 homeless people. Almost 15,000 homeless people are aged over 55, and more than 2,000 of them are over 75.
According to Homelessness Australia, 64 per cent of people living on the street are at risk of death within five years, and older people are inevitably more vulnerable.
- Backgrounder: AAA’s previous coverage on homeless seniors
“It is well known that the older age group is the one suffering the most severe housing stress across Australia. However, I don’t think people realise the extent of homelessness in that age group,” said Ray Glickman, CEO of Amana Living, who took part last night. “Our older generation deserve better.”
Gary Barnier, managing director of Opal Aged Care (previously Domain Principal Group), said he was participating in the event for the third year in a row to raise awareness and funds.
“Every night, 190,000 elderly Australians have a roof above their head and a warm meal due to living in residential aged care. Many other elderly Australians are not nearly as fortunate,” said Mr Barnier.
“I think about those people who live on the streets who are over 65 years of age and find themselves homeless as a result of either an acquired brain injury, through alcohol or drug abuse or just simply because their community and family lives have broken down and they’ve got no other place to go.”
Dr Yvonne Luxford, CEO of Palliative Care Australia, who also took part last night, said a growing issue of concern was homeless mature women, “who may have stayed at home to bring up children and find themselves alone due to the death of their partner or divorce.”
“With no savings or superannuation and no recent workforce skills, they end up homeless. A large proportion of these may also be ‘hidden homeless’ as they often couch surf,” said Dr Luxford.
“This is a very vulnerable group of people. They face the daily stress of having no money or home, and making decisions about whether or not they eat or look after their healthcare. There are also often complex issues related to mental illness or drug and alcohol use, which makes comprehending health information and regularly taking medications for other needs more difficult,” she said.
Chris How, CEO of Bethanie, said he participated in the sleep out to reach out to friends, family, colleagues and business partners to donate to a cause close to his heart.
“At Bethanie, we are always finding new and improved ways to provide the best facilities for WA’s increasingly ageing population, so it deemed a fitting purpose for me to help do the same for another sector in our community that could use a lending hand,” Mr How said.
“This is a wonderful cause and I hope together we can make a difference to thousands of Australians’ lives.”
Echoing Dr Luxford, the CEO of Leading Age Services Australia WA Beth Cameron highlighted the plight of homelessness amongst older women as a key driver behind her participation in the initiative.
“The numbers of homeless women has risen dramatically in the past year because of an ageing population, rising housing unaffordability, higher rental prices and lower levels of superannuation combine to leave older women unable to house themselves.
“But the real figures are much higher because older people don’t tend to ask for help. They would rather sleep on a friend’s sofa or in a car than admit they need assistance,” said Ms Cameron.
Other sector leaders who took part included Graeme Prior from Hall and Prior; Nieves Murray from IRT Group, Steve Teulan from UnitingCare Ageing, and Kim Gilbert from aged care insurer Zenith Insurance.