While ageing can be associated with a decline in health and functioning, with many health conditions and associated impairments—such as arthritis, dementia, and hearing loss—becoming more common as people get older, today's older Australians are generally living longer and healthier lives than those in previous generations. Life expectancy is increasing both at birth and over the course of a person's life, as most Australians enjoy greater standards of living and better access to high-quality health care.  

While longer lives are a positive outcome, increasing longevity and the ageing of the population can have implications at the national and individual level—including, but not limited to, the economy, retirement planning, and the availability of services. For example, older Australians are more likely to be in the workforce than 30 years ago, and more are choosing to remain in their home for longer and access services there, rather than enter residential aged care.

Older Australians are a diverse group, with different ages, socioeconomic backgrounds, life experiences and lifestyles. Each individual has different abilities and resources, and their experience of ageing will be influenced by these differences. However, overall, changing demographic and social trends are having flow-on effects on the circumstances of many of Australia’s older population. While there is a large and growing group of older people who are generally well, living independently and actively participating in society and the economy—for example, those who own homes and have superannuation and are bringing more resources to later life—others may require financial support, or are unable to care for themselves at home, or require support services to do so.

Some groups of older Australians also face disadvantage that affects both their mental and physical health and their opportunities for social and economic engagement within their communities. These include people:

  • from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
  • from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
  • who are veterans of the Australian Defence Force or an allied defence force (or the spouse, widow or widower of a veteran)
  • who live in rural or remote areas  
  • who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless
  • who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI).