Thousands of older Australians, opting to renovate their houses to delay moving into retirement villages and nursing homes.
According to research last year by Pricewaterhouse Coopers and the Property Council of Australia, the average age a person enters an aged care facility has risen to 75. But the latest census data shows the vast majority of older Australians still live in private dwellings.
More than 80 per cent of people aged between 85 and 89 live in private housing, which includes self-contained flats in retirement villages. And roughly half of the population aged between 95 and 99 occupy private dwellings, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Council on the Ageing head Ian Yates said the reasons older Australians wanted to stay at home were varied.
“Mostly it’s because they want control over their lives, and they enjoy where they live,” Mr Yates said. “They might need some help, but that doesn’t mean that they feel they need to give up control and, unfortunately, residential aged care is too often associated with a lack of control.” With one in six Australians now aged over 65, the government is in the process of reforming home care.
Aged care minister Ken Wyatt said $2.2 billion would be spent on the Commonwealth Home Support Program for older Australians this financial year
By 2050, the government estimates a workforce of more than 800,000 people will help service the needs of 3.5 million older Australians, mainly in their own homes.
Home care packages have expanded enormously in the past decade but Mr Yates criticised the “lack of consistency” between the states and territories on home modification schemes.
Architects and builders have reported a significant increase in queries surrounding home modifications, such as installing ramps and rails.
Archicentre Australia director Peter Georgiev said accessibility was a primary consideration in new buildings, pointing to accessible separate studios, or granny flats. “I can’t say with any authority that it is on people’s radar but it’s a bloody good idea,” Mr Georgiev said. “If it’s not, then it should be.”
The federal government said current reforms were aimed at giving consumers greater choice and flexibility over the way support was provided.