Australians are living longer than ever before and most of these 'extra' years are spent without disability. Here are some of the factors that influence our welfare as we grow older.
More years without disability for older Australians
Older Australians are not just living longer, they are also living longer without disability.
In 2012, men aged 65 could expect to live 8.7 additional years without disability and 6.7 further years with a disability, but without severe or profound core activity limitation. Core activity refers to the basic activities of daily living, namely self-care, mobility and communication.
Women aged 65 could expect to live 9.5 additional years without disability and 6.7 years with a disability, but without severe or profound core activity limitation.
Additional expected years at age 65, by sex, with and without disability, 2012
More qualifications, and working longer
Older Australians are now more highly educated than in the past.
In 1981, less than 2% of people aged 65 and over had a bachelor degree or higher qualification and by 2011 this had risen to nearly 9%.
Older Australians are also more likely to stay working after the age of 65.
Between 1984 and 2014, the labour force participation rate for people aged 65 and over rose from 5% to 12%.
Fewer older households own their home outright
For many Australians, their home is their biggest asset. While most Australians aged 65 and over who are living in a private dwelling own their own home outright, this proportion has gradually fallen over the past decade, with corresponding increases occurring for older households that are renting or still paying off a mortgage.
In 2002, 78% of older households owned their homes without a mortgage. By 2011, this proportion had fallen to 71%.
The cost of housing can be a big concern for older people who do not own their home and cannot access social housing.
In 2011, older couples living in private rental accommodation paid, on average, 29% of their gross income to put a roof over their head. For older people living on their own, the relative cost was even higher—37% of their gross income.
In 2011–12, people aged 55–64 were more likely than any other age group to be renting with a state or territory housing authority (5% of households in this age group).
Some mental health concerns
Good mental health is one of the key factors associated with healthy ageing.
The prevalence of mental disorders is lowest in the 75–85 age group. Despite this, there are many factors that can influence the mental health of older Australians, such as the ability to live independently, the loss of a partner, and retirement.
Also, the increasing incidence of dementia as people age complicates the picture of their mental health.
In June 2012, more than half (52%) of all permanent residential aged care residents had symptoms of depression when they were last appraised.
Prevalence of common mental disorders, by age group and sex, 2007
Majority are not using aged care services
The number of older people (65 and over) using aged care services over a year rose 36% from about 642,000 in 2002–03 to just over 874,000 in 2010–11, and the majority used community care only. This increase compares with a rise of 25% in the population aged 65 and over between 30 June 2002 and 30 June 2011.
Despite this, the majority of older Australians are not using aged care services. More than two-thirds of people aged 65 and over (71%) did not use an aged care service in 2010–11.
In 2010–11, around 70% of all aged care clients were women, partly due to women's higher life expectancy, and 2 in 5 clients were aged 85 and over.
People were more likely to use an aged care service as they got closer to the end of their lives—75% of older people who died in 2010–11 had used aged care in their last year of life. Many older people prefer to remain at home for as long as possible and this has influenced aged care program development over many years.
Aged care service use in the last and fifth year before death in 2010–11
* PRAC = permanent residential aged care; RRC = respite residential aged care.