Aged Care in Australia is a bustling industry valued to be more than $20 billion.
Aged care services are part of an industry with over 224,000 employees across well over 1,800 businesses and agencies that offer care services to more than 270,000 elderly and disabled people across Australia.
Aged care is a sector that is snowballing, and this is primarily driven by Australia’ssizeable baby boomer cohort that makes up the largest demographic with an estimated count of 5.5 million citizens.
The majority of this group is born between 1946 and 1965 and means that the older baby boomer is currently 73 years old. That is the age that’s firmly in the retirement period of life. The younger baby boomer is around 54 years.
A demographic that is more than 5 million strong is no small group. And these are individuals that have playeda significant role in reshaping the Australian society and culture over the last couple of decades.
Similar, they are set to have a hand in changing the healthcare landscape in Australia over the next decades and beyond, especially in the provision of aged care.
But what are the most notable trends regarding aged care that we can expect to see as these baby boomers make their mark known in this vital sector that offers a valuable service to the community?
Here’s the top 5 trends set to shake up Australian aged care in 2019 and beyond.
One – Charter of Rights for Aged Care
The main change this year has been giving residents in nursing homes – called aged care residential facilities – more choice about how the live their lives. This is a vital and valuable change that looks set to be a watershed moment in aged care, helping with things as varied as changing nursing homes to having personal identities acknowledged.
Known as the new Charter of Rights for Aged Care, which was launched on 1 July, it outlines the right of a resident to have choice and control.
As a result, consumer responsibilities have been revised, placing the emphasis on caring, understanding and respectful services that recognise the inherent value of culture, identity and diversity.
This is a hugely positive step in moving away from mental illness like anxiety and depression according to the depression treatment team from Thinking Families, they explain “entry into residential aged care can be a challenging time. It is not uncommon for feelings of anxiety and depression to spiral. Changes like the Charter of Rights for Aged Care will help seniors gain the treatment they want and need, and help provide a safe and comfortable space for people to feel respected and cared for.”
Two – Growth In The Demand For Aged Care Beds And Staff
With the inevitable fact that the 5.5 million strong baby boomer cohort is about to enter the retirement years, that is a significantly huge number of people that will be needing aged care.
And with a third of this demographic already past their 65th birthday, and this is the official retirement age, then the picture of the state of things becomes more apparent.
According to the aged care fitness experts from Get A Healthy Life “with around 8% of Australian citizens aged 65 years and above, and a good number of them living in residential aged care, the need forquality beds rises. And this demand will keep going up over the next 5 years to nearly 76,000 annually.”
On the long termscope of things, the federal government issues an intergenerational Report in 2015 that predicts the number of seniorsin Australia aged 65 years and above, which stood at 3.6 million then, will have grown by the year2055 to around 8.9 million.
Such figures make the aged care sector an attractive job prospect for those in search of a stable, in-demand career. However, these projections will also set the stage for a hot political issue in the coming years.
Three – Costs Are Bound To Go Up
With the aged care sector in Australia currently being a hybrid system, the federal government partly covers the costs of the residential care for most of the elderly and disabled Australians.
In addition, advances in health mean we are all living longer. With the average Australian male expected to live to 80 and the average Australian female expected to live to 85, the number of residents in aged care will soar by 2055.
However, it is expected that the number of working taxpayers to support each elderly person will decrease from 4.5 to 2.73. To handle this load, the expenditure on aged care is expected to increase from 0.9% of GDP to 1.7% of GDP by 2054/55.
What is clear is that aged care costs will increasingly need to be covered by individuals to meet the standards required for future aged care. For the everyday Australian this is certainly a concern. PPC Marketer and Sydney resident Jaymes White already has an eye on the future, explaining “although these figures represent a somewhat distant future, it is in effect my future. The thought of struggling to pay for aged care when I need it most is confronting, and conversations around aged care funding should continue to ensure all Australians get the care they need.”
With the number of citizensneeding aged care projected to grow exponentially in the coming years, the federal government has its work cut out as it struggles to fund the current level of elderly care services it subsidises.
That means that there will be a need to incorporate more market-based approaches or require greater contribution ti the cost of care by residents who can afford to do so. In essence, Aussies who have assets will be expected to dig deeper into their pockets to fund their aged care whilst retaining a strategy to subsidise those with limited or no financial capacity to fund their own aged care.
And given how pressed the governments across Australia are regarding their budgetary obligations, a day will come when aged care will be an entirely paid service sector that may only be free for the poorest of Aussies.
Four – Residents Will Demand Greater Lifestyle Amenities
As the retirement years of the baby boomers draw near, a significant portion of them will start using residential aged care accommodation.
They will demand better lifestyle amenities, some of which are not associated with this healthcare sector. And since a majority of the baby boomers are asset-rich given their real estate portfolios and superannuation funds, they will be able to fund and expect a standard of living that is not so different from their youthful, independent years.
Home construction experts, Glen Gilbertson Sanding, explain that “more and more seniors are investing in aged care facilities that represent the standard of living they are accustomed to. We’ve seen facilities investing in improvements and renovations that show an increasingly elaborate architectural element of aged care facilities. These care centres have polished surfaces, and ample natural light, in-house chefs who make gourmet meals, concierge services, and other lifestyle preferences.”
Moreover, the aged care facilities also provide regular social activities and excursions designed to help keep the elderly and disabled residents fit, healthy and socially connected with others.
Five – Technology Will Play A Pivotal Role In Providing Care
With the world in a digital era, then this technology will have an essential role to play in the delivery of quality elderly care services in Australia.
For instance, the baby boomers will be able to go online and read reviews of different facilities, compare feeds and make an informed choice. They may also get to utilise gadgets such as smartwatch monitoring devices, or even get robotic assistants that follow their nurses as they attend to the residents.
Moreover, the same technology may help ease administrative duties so that they can be completed faster and more efficiently; this may help in freeing up time to tend to the social and emotional needs of the aged residents.
These 5 trends represent the greatest changes in the Australian aged care industry, and with 2020 around the corner, it remains to be seen what further changes wait in store.
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Simon Moore is an Australian freelance writer and Sydney-based university student. As a business student, he has a passion for learning about global changes in business culture and specialises in entrepreneurship and innovation-related topics. When Simon isn’t at his desk, you’ll find him exploring National Parks.