Above: NSW Minister for Ageing and Disability Services, Andrew Constance, at the launch of the NSW Ageing Strategy.
By Stephen Easton
The NSW Government launched its long-awaited Ageing Strategy this week, aiming to influence all state government programs, policies and long-term planning to enable people to stay “healthy, active and socially connected” across all stages of life.
The whole-of-government scheme covers areas like transport, urban planning, workforce participation and lifelong learning, as well as ways to combat age discrimination, elder abuse and patronising attitudes towards older people.
The NSW Minister for Ageing, Andrew Constance, launched the strategy on Monday at a computer class for seniors to highlight one specific initiative within the sweeping policy document – $500,000 to fund low-cost classes for seniors in using the latest technology.
“We need to capitalise on the opportunities that population ageing will bring,” Mr Constance said at the launch.
“People who reach 65 today have the opportunity to enjoy more years of healthy, active living than any generation before them. By up-skilling seniors on the latest technology, we can help them to become more connected with their families and friends and their local communities.”
Above: Minister for Ageing and Disability Services, Andrew Constance, launched the Ageing Strategy at City East Community College in Bondi Junction.
Under the strategy, people in their forties and fifties without formal qualifications will be given priority access to subsidised training programs, as part of an initiative to remove barriers to lifelong workforce participation.
In an interview in February, Minister Constance said that by transforming local communities, the Ageing Strategy held the promise of “enormous economic gain” for NSW, through another of its key planks – partnerships between public and private sector organisations to maximise commercial opportunities that arise due to an ageing population.
Other new programs announced along with the new strategy include a $550,000 grants program to help local councils make town centres more ‘age-friendly‘, and the establishment of an elder abuse helpline and resource centre.
The NSW Government committed to developing the strategy last September at an Ageing Roundtable that was chaired by the University of Sydney’s Professor Hal Kendig, a chief investigator of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research.
Prof Kendig said he was pleased to see the strategy come to fruition, and that it had set the government in the right directions – such as focusing on the positive aspects of ageing, from middle-age onwards, and encouraging people to stay healthy.
“The positive features go beyond the specific programs, to look at the mainstream parts of the NSW Government – like health, transport and land use planning – and how they influence older people’s lives,” he said.
“I couldn’t speak highly enough for the way it has been heading. It’s really about a whole-of-government and a whole-of-life approach, and the state government, while not having a lot of dollars, is really well positioned. They provide a lot of the services and build the environments that we live in.
“But what one has to say after that, is that these are very early days. We are fortunate to have a committed-and-able Minister [for Ageing], and a committed-and-able Treasurer, but it’s a tough road ahead.”
Budgets are tight for all state governments, according to Prof Kendig, due to changes in the way that revenue from the GST and other taxes is shared between the Commonwealth and the states.
“The tough road ahead has to do with enabling departments who have [limited budgets] to focus on making sure that there’s appropriate provision for older people – in transport, public housing etc. That’s going to be ‘tough yakka’ and it’s crucially important.”