As the baby boomer generation enters its golden years, more seniors are opting to age in place, forgoing the high cost of assisted living and other senior living communities to remain in either the homes where they’ve spent decades raising families and making memories, or a new home where they can make new memories. With the number of seniors choosing to age in place on the rise, services, technologies, and innovative renovations are emerging to help seniors meet the challenges – making it both safer and easier.

If you’re considering ageing in place, there are a number of things to consider.

  • Is your home handicapped-accessible? Multi-level homes could pose challenges if you develop mobility problems later in life.
  • Do you have family members or friends who live close by who could assist you with activities of daily living (ADLs)? If not, do you have enough savings or retirement income sources to hire in-home help?

… And more!

Ageing in place requires a lot of forethought and planning, because you never know what health and mobility problems you’ll have as you age. We’ve created this in-depth guide, packed with resources, to help Aussie seniors maintain their independence into the future.

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What you’ll find in this guide:

Understanding ageing in place

In this section, we’ll evaluate this growing trend, and provide helpful resources on relevant statistics and the driving forces behind the choice to age in place.

In 2011, approximately three million Australians were aged 65 and older. The Australian Bureau of Statistics points out that the 65+ population is the fastest-growing age demographic in Australia: “Over the 20 years between 1994 and 2014, the proportion of the population aged 65 years and over increased from 11.8% to 14.7%. This group is projected to increase more rapidly over the next decade, as further cohorts of baby boomers turn 65 (there are currently only three years of baby boomers aged 65 years and over).”

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) notes that the number of Australians aged 65 and older has more than tripled over the past 50 years, rising to 3.4 million in 2014. Perhaps more shockingly, there’s been a ninefold increase in the number of Australians aged 85 and older in the same period – increasing to 456,600 in 2014. The AIHW explains, “Based on population projections by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there will be 9.6 million people aged 65 and over and 1.9 million people aged 85 and over by 2064.”

Naturally, the rapidly growing ageing population in Australia places greater strain on the ageing housing system, as well as care and support services designed to aid the ageing population. As many older Australians are remaining healthier later in life, more are choosing to age in place.

Why do older Australians choose to age in place?

Interestingly, emotional attachment may not be the primary reason you want to continue to live in your own home during your elder years. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) published findings in March 2013 from a study evaluating the key reasons why Australians choose to age in place. Among homeowners who own their home outright, emotions didn’t top the list of reasons why they’d prefer to remain in their own homes. The top reason? Location.

The AIHW report states, “Location rated highest among all tenure types as a reason to stay, except in public housing where it was slightly lower than financial concerns. Among owners, comfort was next, followed by financial suitability; among renters this order was reversed. This difference seems to be due to the financial constraints faced by renters, because they, far more often than owners, reported they were unable to move because of the expense. Also, renters generally have lower income than owners.”

Seniors don’t necessarily need to stay in the home that they own, either. Ageing in place sometimes means choosing a residential care community that allows you to remain in the same homelike environment regardless of increasing care needs over time. These arrangements are often ideal for couples who prefer to continue living together but who may require different levels of care. For example, if your spouse suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and you have few physical or cognitive impairments, ageing in place would allow you to reside with your spouse while both of you receive appropriate care for your needs.

According to an article in The Gerontologist, an Oxford Journals publication of The Gerontological Society of America, “Older people want choices about where and how they age in place. ‘Aging in place’ was seen as an advantage in terms of a sense of attachment or connection and feelings of security and familiarity in relation to both homes and communities. [It] related to a sense of identity both through independence and autonomy and through caring relationships and roles in the places people live.”

Planning for ageing in place

Ageing in place is a viable option for many older Australians, but it’s not a choice to be taken lightly. If you’re considering this course of action, the key is to begin planning early, evaluate your options for care and support services, and plan ahead for your financial needs as you grow older. In this section, we’ll discuss the planning process and offer valuable resources to help you plan for your future, secure needed services, and examine the various options available to you.

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The Australian Government’s Department of Social Services offers an abundance of resources to help Australian’s ageing population age in place successfully, including this helpful checklist for developing your care plan.

Access Homes explains, “Simply look at known limitations that people have while ageing and modify the home to minimise the impact of these limitations. A few thousand dollars in home modifications could save tens of thousands on costs for assisted living facilities.”

The Home Modifications and Maintenance Services (HMMS) program “delivers an important service to support frail older people, people with a disability, and their carers to remain at home,” according to the NSW Government’s Family and Community Services website. The Home Modification Information Clearinghouse is a database that allows you to search for home modification services throughout Australia. The website also provides valuable information such as this Consumer Factsheet on Arranging Home Modifications.

“The service is income and asset tested, and a referral from an occupational therapist is usually necessary, depending on the type of work requested,” explains Motor Neurone Disease Association of NSW, describing the program. “It is well worth seeking assistance through HMMS. However, it is important to apply for this assistance early, as there may be delays due to demand and funding limitations.”

If making home modifications is a part of your ageing-in-place plan, Standards Australia is a resource you’ll want to check out. Standards Australia is an independent, not-for-profit organisation that establishes guidelines for safe building practices. According to Independent Living Centres Australia, “It is important to consider their standards when making modifications to the home to allow for the installation of Assistive Technology and the adjustment of current infrastructure to better suit your needs. There is advice on safe gradients, ceiling heights, etc., all designed to help make your modifications as safe as possible.“

Another essential resource for homeowners considering home modifications is the Australian Building Codes Board, a joint initiative consisting of members from various levels of the Australian government as well as members of the building community. The Australian Building Codes Board is a regulatory body that constantly evolves in accordance with broader technology trends and advancements. The codes established by this organisation should be consulted before you initiate any modifications to your home.

The Association of Consultants in Access Australia, Inc. (ACA) is a national association that aims to achieve higher standards for accessibility within the building industry for individuals with disabilities. The ACA website has a searchable database allowing you to easily locate an ACA consultant in your area who can aid you in making appropriate building plans to ensure accessibility in your home for many years to come.

Support services for Australia’s ageing population

If you decide that ageing in place is the best option for you, it’s likely that you will require assistance with either home maintenance and modifications or personal care needs, such as bathing, dressing, meal preparation, grocery shopping, and other needs as you grow older. While not every older Australian requires assistance with these activities, many eventually do when they advance in age.

It’s a good idea to learn about the services and support available to you locally through government or private service providers. The following resources provide information on the different services you can secure for ageing in place, along with useful cost estimators and other tools to help you locate service providers.

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If you choose to remain in your own home, My Aged Care explains there are a variety of services available to help you do so successfully. Services include help with housework, help with personal care needs such as bathing and dressing, help with transportation, nursing care, maintenance and modifications to your home, goods and equipment, and more. “If you live in Victoria or Western Australia, there will be differences in the way you are assessed and referred to services,” according to My Aged Care.

The Department of Social Services offers a helpful guide to Accessing a Home Care Package. According to the Department of Social Services, the guide “explains how older people with a range of high care needs can assess support in their home, through a coordinated home care package.”

If you need assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), getting help from in-home caregivers is an option if you don’t have a family member who can act as your caregiver. My Aged Care can help you find local resources to meet your needs, determine your eligibility for services, and provide cost estimations to help you plan. Services may include personal care, domestic help, or assistance with meal preparation (or meal delivery services). This easy-to-use service locator helps you easily identify local service providers who can assist with everything from goods, equipment, and assistive technology to meals, personal care, social support, and more.

My Aged Care also offers home maintenance and modification services to those who qualify. Home maintenance services may include everything from minor repairs, such as repairing a leaky faucet, to more extensive repairs, such as repairing or replacing your roof, and everything in between – even services such as garden and lawn maintenance. Home modification services may include the installation of grab bars, ramps, or other mobility aids, emergency alarms and other safety aids, and more. My Aged Care will provide an explanation of services, eligibility information, and costs. There’s also a free cost estimator located on the My Aged Care website.

The Australian Association of Social Workers published a report on Ageing in Australia that includes an overview of the challenges facing the ageing population and the various efforts that have been made to enable social services providers to better meet the needs of the elderly. The report examines the current state of aged care services and support, the weaknesses of the current system, and areas of focus for improving the delivery of care to older Australians whether they choose to age in place or reside in a residential ageing community.

The Australian Government Department of Social Services publishes a list of service providers throughout Australia that is updated annually. Individual lists for state and territory breakdowns are helpful for narrowing your options to providers closest to you.

Additionally, the Australian Government publishes a valuable list of resources including various agencies that provide support services to older Australians. Older Australians, for instance, offers access to retirement advice, assistance with medical and pharmaceutical costs, and other financial support services. Carers Australia is a great resource offering support for family caregivers, and the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency provides oversight for residential and home care providers and services to ensure quality of care.

Another resource for caregivers is Carer Gateway, which also provides a variety of resources for family caregivers and access to a multitude of support services, such as payments, information on taking care of the caregiver’s own health and wellbeing, connecting with other carers for emotional and social support, and more. You’ll also find this breakdown of the various support services available for both older Australians and the individuals who care for them helpful.

Government reforms and efforts focused on ageing

The Australian government is attentive to the needs of the ageing population in Australia. With the rapidly growing 65+ demographic, several reforms have been initiated aiming to ensure that older Australians will have options for meeting their needs and preferences as they grow older. In this section, we’ll review several recent and currently active reforms and other efforts by the Australian government to support the elder population in Australia.

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According to the Parliament of Australia, “In recent years successive Commonwealth and State governments have pursued a general policy direction of ‘ageing in place’. This has essentially involved a greater emphasis on keeping elderly and frail people in their home or family settings for as long as possible via the provision of home care services.”

The Home Care Packages Programme was introduced on 1 August 2013, replacing the Community Aged Care Package Program. In addition, the government introduced Consumer Directed Care (CDC) to all new home care packages beginning 1 August 2013. “Since 1 July 2015, all home care packages are being delivered on a CDC basis,” explains the Australian Government Department of Social Services.

The Formative evaluation of the Home Care Packages Programme – Detailed findings report, published in April 2015, outlines the findings of the effectiveness of the programme’s implementation, processes and structures.

In the 2015-2016 budget, the Australian government announced significant reforms to home care aimed at improving the way that home care is delivered to older Australians. More details about these reforms can be found at the Increasing Choice in Home Care page from the Department of Social Services.

Health Direct Australia maintains a list of the government agencies serving Australia as well as the individual entities that oversee specific states and territories. These websites are the best source of information on the latest reform efforts and initiatives for older adults in Australia:

Ageing in place is not only desirable for many older Australians, but it’s increasingly possible thanks to the many resources and support services available. Whether you decide to age in place in your own home, age in place at an ageing care community, or choose another senior living setting that’s suitable to your needs, the resources in this guide will help you make the right decision and plan appropriately for your future.

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