Undeterred by the Federal Government axing it last November, the Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing launched its Blueprint for an Ageing Australia on Wednesday, calling for wide-ranging policy changes in areas from retirement to technology.
Established by the previous Labor government, the panel was disbanded by the Abbott Government in November – months before it was to complete its blueprint. At the time, the panel’s chair, Everald Compton, appealed via Australian Ageing Agenda for support from organisations so it could complete its work. In February Per Capita announced its involvement and a campaign to raise the necessary funds to sustain the panel. Subsequently, National Seniors and National Australia Bank joined the cause.
The resulting blueprint is the product of extensive public consultations and discussions.
The document puts forward recommendations in a range of areas from housing and retirement to technology and workforce.
Specifically, it has called for:
- A government Minister for Ageing, reporting to the Prime Minister
- A Seniors Enterprise Institute, to facilitate entrepreneurialism and volunteering
- Mandating the study of gerontology in all undergraduate healthcare courses
- Increasing internet access for seniors; providing ICT training; and a national telehealth strategy
- Design standards for an ageing population; and housing bonds for rentals
The panel called for new investment by federal education and employment departments, and vocational education and training (VET) providers, specifically TAFE colleges, for “re-skilling and workplace transitions” for workers aged over 50.
The blueprint also proposed that banks organise a Golden Givers Campaign over the next decade “by encouraging their clients to establish charitable trusts and foundations and offering them management services in investing and distributing funds.”
Elsewhere, it proposed that all three levels of government should “plan to vastly upgrade transport services by train and bus so that the use of public transport becomes the preferred mode of travel for seniors.”
Along with Mr Compton, the panel consisted of Helen Brady, National Australia Bank; David Hetherington, Per Capita; Professor Brian Howe; Professor Gill Lewin; Michael O’Neill, National Seniors; and, Neville Roach.
The Blueprint for an Ageing Australia was launched at the National Press Club on Wednesday.
Adjunct Professor John Kelly, CEO, Aged & Community Services Australia, said the blueprint was a welcome addition to the conversation Australians needed to have about ageing and that Mr Compton and his fellow members of the Advisory Panel on Ageing should be congratulated on their leadership in continuing the work after funding was discontinued.
“There are many contributions Australians can make to their community and their nation throughout the whole of their life and we need to consider how best to enable people to live as productively and safely as possible and with the respect they deserve. The role played by aged care providers is an integral part of this. Governments must think beyond election cycles to ensure this happens,” Prof Kelly said.
Ian Yates, chief executive, COTA Australia highlighted the paper’s calls for a retirement incomes strategy comprehensive of all taxation, superannuation, transfer system and employment issues and renewed requests for the Federal Government to convene an independent retirement incomes review.
“Such papers continue to be produced due to the vacuum in quality policy discussion that exists at the federal government level on these important issues. Instead we have policy decisions being made in isolation, without proper consideration of their broader and interconnected impact or how they will or will not meet the future needs of the whole of Australia,” Mr Yates said.
Sarah Saunders, acting chief executive, National Seniors, said the project was refreshing in turning the rhetoric around and casting ageing as something positive.
“The document highlights that the $8 trillion spent by the over-60s globally will, by 2020, almost double to $15 trillion. If Australia embraces the business of ageing, and does it well, the potential to export and capitalize on our knowledge in this area is huge,” Ms Saunders said.
Patrick Reid, CEO, Leading Age Services Australia, said the need for a national conversation on ageing and intergenerational engagement was long overdue.
“Adoption of this blueprint will require some brave policy decisions from government,” Mr Reid said.
Mr Reid said he was looking forward to hearing more on the topic from Mr Compton at LASA’s National Congress in October.
The Federal Opposition also welcomed the blueprint and in a joint press release from shadow minister for ageing Shayne Neumann and shadow parliamentary secretary for aged care Helen Polley said that senior Australians were not a burden.
Labor will continue to work together with the panel members, seniors peak organisations, experts and senior Australians towards an Australia that valued senior Australians and gave them the support, certainty and opportunities they deserved, it said.
Related AAA coverage: ‘The hard work now begins’ writes Everald Compton