At any one time, the majority of older Australians are not using aged care services. For those who do, the Australian aged care system provides a range of services that support older people—and a small number of younger people with disability—in both community and residential settings.

Aged care in Australia is delivered through a variety of programs:

  • Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP)—provides entry-level support services (such as personal care, transport, and assistance with food preparation and meals) to help people stay independent and in their homes and communities for longer.
  • Home Care Packages Programme (Home Care)—offers packages of services at four levels of care to enable people to live at home for as long as possible, with care needs increasing with each increment of level and including clinical services.
  • Residential aged care—provides a range of care options and accommodation on a permanent or respite basis for people who are unable to continue living independently in their own homes.
  • Flexible care—in addition to the mainstream programs above, various flexible care programs are available to provide care for special groups or circumstances in mixed settings. Transition Care is the largest of these, providing support for people to return home after a hospitalisation.

The use of aged care services is often considered in terms of a progression of care—from low-level or temporary care, to high-level, permanent care—but this is not necessarily the case. People may enter at any level and their progression through the system is not always linear.

While aged care is often thought of as primarily referring to residential aged care, only a small proportion of older Australians access residential aged care in a given year, with most using community packages (such as CHSP or Home Care).

Since 2013, on behalf of the Australian Government Department of Health, the AIHW has run the National Aged Care Data Clearinghouse (NACDC)—a central, independent repository of national aged care data. The data mostly relate to government-funded aged care programs operating under the Aged Care Act 1997, with a few additions. By facilitating access to data and information for research, evaluation and analysis, the NACDC supports the development of evidence-based planning and practice in aged care. It also works to improve consistency across aged care data sets, through metadata and information management development.

Data and information on aged care in Australia, including from the NACDC, can be found on the AIHW’s GEN website.