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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1996  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/06/1996   
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Contents >> Housing >> Housing Arrangements: Housing for older people

Housing Arrangements: Housing for older people

In 1994, 77% of people aged 60 and over owned their homes outright, compared to 24% of people aged 15-59.

Access to affordable and suitable housing is a major factor in the quality of life and well-being of older people. As Australia's population ages (see Australian Social Trends 1994, Projections of the aged population), ensuring that older people have access to suitable housing will be an increasingly important policy issue1.

While many older people are well housed, some, particularly private renters and people who live alone (the majority of whom are women), may experience problems in accessing suitable housing1.

In 1985, the government embarked on a program of reforms to aged care services through the Aged Care Reform Strategy 2. This involved enhancing older people's independence in the community to avoid premature admission to supported accommodation3. Since 1985, government expenditure has shifted away from nursing homes towards hostel and community care, particularly through the Home and Community Care program (HACC)4.


Older people and housing

In this review, older people are those aged 60 and over and younger people are those aged 15-59.

The reference person is the nominated partner in a couple household (usually the husband), the parent in a one parent household, and the person in a lone person household. The reference person in other households is an adult nominated by the household.

Health establishments include hospitals, nursing homes, hostels, and retirement villages with a nursing home or supported facility on site.

A household is a person living alone or a group of related or unrelated people who live together as a single unit in the sense that they share common housekeeping arrangements.

Private dwellings are houses, townhouses, flats, home units, garages and other structures occupied by households as private places of residence.


Living arrangements
The majority of older people live independently in the community. In 1993, 94% of older people lived in private dwellings and 5% lived in health establishments. The remainder lived in other non-private dwellings. Between 1988 and 1993, the proportions of older people living in private dwellings changed little except for women aged 80 and over. In 1988, 66% of women in this age group lived in private dwellings but this had increased to 74% by 1993.

In 1993, 25% of older people lived alone. Those living alone were more likely to be women than men, and the likelihood of living alone increased with age. 18% of people aged 60-69 lived alone compared to 35% of people aged 80 and over (see People who live alone).

The likelihood of living in a health establishment also increased with age, particularly for women. 1% of women aged 60-69 lived in health establishments compared to 25% of women aged 80 and over.

Older women were more likely than older men to live in health establishments (7% compared to 4%). This is related to the higher proportion of women than men who are aged 70 or more, and to the higher rate of severe and profound handicap among older women (see Australian Social Trends 1995, Older people with disabilities). Another factor, which is related to women's longer life expectancy (see Health - National summary tables), is that older men were more likely than older women to be living with a spouse who could help care for them. 75% of older men were living with their spouse in 1993 compared to 47% of older women.

LIVING ARRANGEMENTS OF OLDER PEOPLE, 1993

60-69 years
70-79 years
80 years and over
60 years and over




Men
Women
Men
Women
Men
Women
Persons
Living arrangements
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

In private dwellings
97.6
98.4
96.1
94.9
83.9
74.3
94.0
    With spouse(a)
79.6
63.5
74.1
41.8
54.5
13.8
59.4
    With relatives other than spouse
4.0
9.9
3.8
12.6
8.6
17.1
8.7
    With unrelated people
1.5
1.1*
1.4*
1.1*
* *
0.8*
1.2
    Alone
12.5
23.9
16.9
39.4
20.2
42.6
24.7
In non-private dwellings
2.4
1.6
3.9
5.1
16.1
25.7
6.0
    Health establishments
1.1
1.0
3.3
4.4
15.7
25.0
5.2
    Other non-private dwellings(b)
1.3
0.6*
0.5*
0.6*
* *
* *
0.8
Total people
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
Total people
686.1
714.3
410.7
531.2
142.9
277.7
2,763.0

(a) Comprises people who live with their spouse only, or with their spouse and other people.
(b) Includes hotels, motels, boarding houses, religious institutions, construction camps and short-stay caravan parks.

Source: Disability, Ageing and Carers Survey (cat. no. 4430.0 and unpublished data).


Housing tenure
Home ownership increases with age (see Home ownership). In 1994, 77% of older people owned their homes compared to 24% of younger people. 5% of older people were purchasing their homes compared to 30% of younger people.

Older people living in couple households were more likely to be home owners than those in lone person households (85% compared to 70%) and less likely to be renters (8% compared to 22%). Among older people, lone women (73%) were more likely to be owners than lone men (62%).

Older people were less likely than younger people to be renting (12% compared to 24%). However those older people who did rent were more likely to be public renters than younger people who were renting. 6% of older people compared to 4% of younger people were public renters, and 5% of older people were private renters compared to 18% of younger people.

HOUSING TENURE BY AGE AND HOUSEHOLD TYPE, 1994

People in lone person households
People in couple households
All people



15-59 years
60 years and over
15-59 years
60 years and over
15-59 years
60 years and over
Tenure type
%
%
%
%
%
%

Owner
23.3
70.0
28.6
85.4
24.1
76.8
Purchaser
25.3
4.2
35.2
5.9
29.5
5.2
Renter
47.4
21.5
16.3
7.5
23.6
11.5
    Public
7.0
11.3
2.9
3.4
3.7
5.6
    Private
38.4
7.3
11.8
3.4
17.5
4.6
Other
4.1
4.3
19.9
1.1
22.7
6.5
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
Total
744.6
709.5
7,807.9
1,583.9
11,038.2
2,635.1

Source: Australian Housing Survey (unpublished data)


Housing affordability
Despite their low average income, most older people have access to affordable housing. While their rate of home ownership is high, some older people may experience housing affordability problems, in particular private renters and people who live alone. Older people are much more likely than younger people to live alone.

There is no single standard measure of housing affordability. One measure used in housing research is the ratio of housing costs to income5. Households can be considered to have affordability problems if they are in the lowest two income quintiles (each quintile contains 20% of total households when ranked on household income) and spend more than 25% of their incomes on housing costs.

In 1994, 12% of older households were in the lowest two income quintiles and spent more than 25% of their incomes on housing costs compared to 14% of younger households.

Housing affordability varies by tenure and by household type. In 1994, among older households, 67% of private renter households compared to 7% of owner households had affordability problems. Fewer couple households experienced affordability problems than lone person households (8% compared to 17%). This is related to people in couple households being more likely to be owners, and less likely to be private renters, than people living alone.

Men who lived alone were more likely to be private renters, and less likely to be owners, than women who lived alone, and a greater proportion of lone male (20%) than lone female (16%) households had affordability problems. However, because of the predominance of women among older people living alone, the majority (67%) of lone person households with affordability problems were female.

PROPORTION OF OLDER PERSON HOUSEHOLDS(a) WITH HOUSING AFFORDABILITY PROBLEMS(b), 1994


(a) Refers to households whose reference person is aged 60 or over.
(b) Housing affordability problems are defined as the proportion of older person households in the lowest two income quintiles who spent more than 25% of their incomes on housing costs.

Source: Australian Housing Survey (unpublished data)


Housing suitability
When asked about their overall satisfaction with their dwelling in 1994, a greater proportion of older households (93%) reported that they were satisfied than younger households (83%). Among older households, owners and purchasers were the most satisfied, followed by renters.

When asked about the safety and security of their dwelling in 1994, a greater proportion of older than younger households were satisfied (91% compared with 82%). Owners were the most satisfied with safety and security (92%), and public renters among the least satisfied (83%).

Most older people remain in the family home, and many prefer to do so6. However, the greater chance of living alone and becoming disabled and frail with age may mean that the family home requires modifications (see Australian Social Trends 1995, Older people with disabilities). Some older people would prefer to move to more suitable accommodation but do not because of the stress and costs of moving. Housing modifications are a way of making existing accommodation more suitable.

In 1993, among older people with a disability who lived in households, 8% of men and 15% of women had modified their dwelling. The proportion of people who had modified their dwelling increased with age. The most common modifications (47% of all modifications), especially for those aged 80 and over, were the installation of rails, bars or straps. 17% of all modifications involved new/changed furniture or fittings, and 16% involved ramps, or changes to floors, steps, paths or drives.

The need to move house is one indication of the suitability of older people's housing. In 1993, 3% of older people living in private dwellings had moved house in the previous five years because of their disability or age. Among older people, the likelihood of having moved house for these reasons increased with age.

3% of older women and 2% of older men needed to move house (this may include some people who had already moved, and needed to move again). The most common reason, given by 34% of people who needed to move, was because of their illness or condition. Among older people who had moved or needed to move, half expressed a preference for remaining in their current dwelling. Of those who needed to move, 50% of men and 62% of women said they faced barriers to moving. Cost was the most common barrier mentioned.

OLDER PERSON HOUSEHOLDS(a) WHO REPORTED OVERALL SATISFACTION WITH THEIR DWELLING, 1994


(a) Refers to households whose reference person is aged 60 or over.

Source: Australian Housing Survey (unpublished data)

PROPORTION OF OLDER PEOPLE WITH A DISABILITY WHO HAD MODIFIED THEIR DWELLING(a), 1993

Men
Women
Persons
Age
%
%
%

60-69
4.7
10.0
7.0
70-79
9.0
14.5
11.9
80 and over
16.9
22.9
20.5
Total
8.1
14.5
11.4
'000
'000
'000
Total
50.7
93.5
144.2

(a) Refers to people aged 60 and over with a disability living in households.

Source: Disability, Ageing and Carers Survey (unpublished data).

OLDER PEOPLE(a) WHO HAD MOVED HOUSE IN THE PREVIOUS FIVE YEARS BECAUSE OF DISABILITY OR AGE, 1993


(a) Refers to people aged 60 and over living in private dwellings.

Source: Disability, Ageing and Carers Survey (unpublished data).


Government assistance

The Home and Community Care Program (HACC) is a joint commonwealth/states and territories funded program which began in 1985. The program provides an integrated range of assistance to the aged and people with a disability in the community, and their carers. Among the range of services are home help, personal care, home maintenance and modification, community respite care, transport, community nursing, allied health services, assessment and referral, education and training, and information and coordination7.

A range of other assistance and concessions is available to help older Australians maintain their independence in the community, some of which may not be specifically targeted at older people. Included are: assistance for carers, including the carers' pension; home and centre based respite care; rental assistance and rates rebates; and assistance for home modifications4.


The trend towards community care
Since 1985, the government has increased the range and funding of services available to older people living in the community2. While overall funding for aged care and the proportion spent on community care have increased, the proportion spent on nursing home care has decreased. Expenditure on the Home and Community Care program (HACC) as a proportion of total government aged care expenditure increased from 15% in 1985-86 to 20% in 1989-90, and to 23% in 1993-94.

Decreased funding for nursing homes is related to the decreasing proportion of people aged 70 and over living in nursing homes. Between 1988 and 1994, the proportion of the population aged 70 and over living in nursing homes declined for both men and women. The greatest reduction occurred among people aged 80 and over, particularly among women.

A major aim of government policy is to ensure that nursing home and hostel places go to people who are most in need of supported accommodation3. Between 1987 and 1995, the level of dependency (that is, the level of personal care required, as assessed by the Department of Health and Family Services) for people entering nursing homes and hostels increased. This suggests that residents of these institutions were appropriately accommodated. It also indicates that less dependent people, who would in the past have been admitted to nursing homes and hostels, are now being cared for in the community2,3.

RELATIVE PROPORTION OF TOTAL GOVERNMENT AGED CARE EXPENDITURE


(a) Note that a small proportion of Home and Community Care (HACC) clients are non-aged disabled.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Australia's Welfare 1995: services and assistance.

PEOPLE IN NURSING HOMES(a)

30 June 1988
30 June 1994
Sex and age
rate(b)
rate(b)

Men
    70-79
17.1
15.5
    80 and over
76.9
70.3
    Total 70 and over
31.3
29.9
Women
    70-79
23.2
19.1
    80 and over
161.0
131.7
    Total 70 and over
68.1
58.4

(a) Nursing homes are those approved by the Department of Health and Family Services for recurrent funding.
(b) Nursing home residents per 1,000 people of the same age category.
Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (unpublished data).


Maintaining independence
The majority of older people require no assistance to maintain their independence. In 1993, over half (56%) of all people aged 60 and over living in the community felt they needed no help or assistance, because of their age or disability, with activities connected with their daily life8.

Of older Australians living in households, women were more likely than men to need help (57% compared to 29%). This cannot be explained entirely by the different age structures of the older male and female populations. The trend is at all ages above 60. It may be due to the higher proportion of older women who live alone, particularly home owners, to the higher rate of severe and profound handicap among older women, and to the generally greater reluctance of men to seek assistance.

In 1993, most older Australians living in households who needed help received as much assistance as they required, but 13% felt they needed more help8.

Many older people are themselves providers of assistance. In 1992, at least 42% of people aged 60 and over provided support to a relative8. In 1993, 6% of older Australians were identified as principal carers8 (see Principal carers and their caring roles).

OLDER PEOPLE(a) NEEDING HELP WITH DAILY LIVING, 1993

Men
Women
Age
%
%

60-69
18.7
41.0
70-79
33.3
66.5
80 and over
68.8
86.7
Total 60 and over needing help
28.6
56.8
'000
'000
Total 60 and over
1,196.0
1,423.0

(a) Refers to people aged 60 and over living in households.

Source: Disability, Ageing and Carers Survey (cat. no. 4430.0).


Endnotes
1 The National Housing Strategy (1992) Housing for Older Australians: Affordability, Adjustments and Care Background paper No 8.

2 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (1993) Australia's Welfare 1993: Services and Assistance.

3 Department of Human Services and Health (1995) Annual Report 1994-95.

4 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (1995) Australia's Welfare 1995: Services and Assistance.

5 National Housing Strategy (1992) National Housing Strategy: Summary of Papers.

6 Davison, B. et al. (1993) It's My Place: Older People talk about their Homes AGPS, Canberra.

7 Department of Health, Housing, Local Government and Community Services (1993) Program Performance Statements 1993-94.

8 Focus on Families: Caring in Families: Support for Persons who are Older or have Disabilities (cat. no. 4423.0).



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