Dr Catherine Bridge, a convenor of today's forum.
Dr Catherine Bridge, a convenor of today’s forum.

A forum of providers, consumer representatives and policy experts is meeting today to develop a paper for government outlining the key issues in the area of housing for older people, as well as potential solutions.

One of the convenors, Dr Catherine Bridge from the City Futures centre at UNSW, said the forum was approaching the issue through a human rights framework.

Speaking to AAA before the forum, Dr Bridge said the event was timely and important as it would enable stakeholders – including advocacy groups, older people and governments at all levels – to make informed decisions.

The forum, organised by City Futures as well as the Centre for Housing, Urban and Regional Planning, IRT, Housing for the Aged Action Group and Liveable Housing Australia, is part of the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) national conference in Adelaide.

Discussing homelessness among the elderly, which is a key topic of the forum, Dr Bridge said that a very significant number of people will either have a mortgage or not own their own home at the point of retirement.

She said one of the principles around retirement is that older people have secure housing. “In fact, the house is the linchpin for ageing in place. If we’re talking seriously about consumer directed care that implies people have choices and what gives them choices are the assets as well as their location,” she said.

When asked whether current reforms to aged care may have a positive impact on the issue of housing for older people generally, Dr Bridge said it remained unclear. “Living Longer Living Better (LLLB) is a bipartisan commitment but we have already seen some changes with the new government; for instance, the move of ageing out of the Department of Health and into the broader Department of Social Services, which means, potentially, there will be more connections.”

Furthermore, she said that, in terms of why older people’s housing had not been better addressed earlier, Dr Bridge pointed to “the siloed nature of how government has dealt with aged care and aged institutional care as separate from things like rental assistance.”

Dr Bridge said other reforms including the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) may “indirectly shape the agenda” because both LLLB and NIDS reforms are about consumer directed care and “they’re also around change which allows individuals to exert more informed choices, so in that sense they’re both working in tandem.”

However, she added: “The fact that older people with a disability are excluded from disability care raises another set of issues about integration.”

Age friendly cities

Dr Bridge highlighted Adelaide and Canberra as examples of a movement towards age friendly cities. “Although some people may dismiss this because of the title ‘age’, what they haven’t understood is that if it’s good for older people it’s actually good for everyone else.”

These initiatives are about thinking beyond the normal silos and trying to connect the dots to create better outcomes, she said. “Unless we can bring transport, housing and services together we’re not going to get the sorts of efficiencies nor range of services that are required to move us forward in a positive way – both in terms of better outcomes for older people and economic security of individuals and governments.”

AAA will report on the outcomes of the forum and the paper developed for government and stakeholders in a future story.

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