4109.0 - Older People, Australia: A Social Report, 1999  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 15/12/1999   
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December 15, 1999
Embargoed: 11:30 AM (AEST)

ABS report profiles Australia's older people

Australians are living longer than ever before. According to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today the older population is increasing - both in number and as a proportion of the total population - each year. In 1998 older people comprised 12% of the total population and they are projected to form almost one-quarter (24%) of the total population by 2051.

Most older Australians (63%) continue to live in family households (usually with their partner) and many enjoy opportunities for travel, sport and other leisure activities.

While older people generally have more free time, greater access to government benefits and enjoy higher rates of home ownership than younger people, they are less likely to move residence, be victims of crime, or use new electronic technologies. Overall, older people spend more time than younger people on activities such as personal care, domestic work and recreation and leisure activities, and less time on employment and education-related activities.

Older people make an important contribution to society in terms of caring and social support. In 1998, around one-in-six people who cared for someone with a disability were aged 65 and over. In 1997 grandparents provided child care assistance for over two-thirds of all households which received informal childcare, and in 1995 almost 350,000 older Australians gave their time, service and skills to voluntary organisations and groups.

As people age, they become more vulnerable to ill-health. In 1995, 90% of older people had experienced a recent illness, and virtually all (99%) reported at least one long-term condition (most commonly sight and hearing loss). However, although older people were less likely to exercise and more likely to be overweight than younger people, they were less likely to smoke or consume hazardous amounts of alcohol.

In 1998, just over half (54%) of all older people had a disability. The majority of these were being adequately cared for at home with only 13% of older people with a disability (and 7% of older people overall) living in cared accommodation.

As a result of low labour force participation, older people typically experience reduced income. In 1996-97, almost three-quarters (74%) of all older income units (where the reference person was aged 65 or over) relied on government pensions and allowances as their principal source of income.

Further details can be found in Older People, Australia: A Social Report (cat. no. 4109.0) available in ABS bookshops in all capital cities. A summary of the main findings of the publication may be found on this site. The ABS encourages media with online news services to link to the main findings. Please phone us if you need assistance to do this.

If you wish to purchase a copy of this publication telephone 02 6252 5249.