Ageing and aged care

Australia's population is ageing. This demographic shift presents a range of challenges and opportunities for older Australians and the wider community.

The number of people aged 65 and over in Australia is projected to more than double, to 8.8 million, over the next 40 years.

Number and proportion of the population aged 65 and over, by age group and sex, 30 June 2017, 2027, 2037, 2047 and 2057

Combined stacked column graph and line graph predicting the number and proportion of the population aged 65 and over, by age group and sex, over time. The population has grown continuously over the years. It is predicted that in 2057, people aged 65 and over will make up around 22%25 of the population, compared to around 15%25 in 2017.

As the population grows and more Australians reach advanced old age, the number of people with dementia is expected to rise. Dementia is a leading cause of disability in older Australians. It brings a substantial burden for people with dementia, their family members and caregivers (often one and the same), and increasing cost to government.

An estimated 365,000 Australians had dementia in 2017, 99% of whom were aged 60 and over. The number of people affected by dementia is projected to rise considerably, to 900,000 by 2050.

Informal carers—the main form of support for older people

Many older Australians (aged 65 and over) want to remain in their own homes as they age, and most do so. Only 5% of older Australians live in cared accommodation (like nursing homes).

Almost 40% of older people living in households or cared accommodation need assistance with at least one activity (such as household chores or meal preparation). More assistance to older people living at home is provided by informal providers (73%) than formal providers (60%) but this varies, depending on the type of activity.

Activity type and provider type for older Australians aged 65 and over living in households who needed assistance, 2015

Bar chart showing rates of older Australians who needed assistance for different activities. These include reading or writing tasks, communication, mobility, meal preparation, transport, cognitive or emotional tasks, self-care, property maintenance, household chores, and health care. Overall, around 70%25 received assistance from an informal provider in at least one activity, and around 60%25 from a formal provider.

Find out more: Chapter 5.1 'Ageing and aged care' in Australia's welfare 2017.

People with dementia require greater levels of care

In 2017, an estimated 365,000 people were living with dementia.

Almost half (49%) of people with dementia in 2015 lived in cared accommodation (such as residential aged care facilities) and nearly all had an associated disability.

Also, more than half (52%) of the people living in permanent residential aged care as at 30 June 2016 had dementia. On entry to permanent residential aged care, people's care needs are assessed. These assessments show that people with dementia were more likely to be rated as requiring a 'high' level of assistance with nearly all types of care than residents without dementia. This was particularly so for cognitive skills (5 times as likely as people without dementia to be rated as 'most dependent'), wandering (3.2 times) and nutrition (2.9 times).

Proportion of people in permanent residential aged care with/without dementia who were assessed as most dependent, by selected types of care needs, as at 30 June 2016

Bar chart showing rates of older Australians who were assessed as most dependent by their care needs. The needs shown are personal hygiene, toileting, verbal behaviours, mobility, physical behaviours, cognitive skills, nutrition, and wandering. Care residents who had dementia were assessed as most dependent more often than their counterparts without dementia.

Find out more: Chapter 5.2 'Dementia and people's need for help from others' in Australia's welfare 2017.