Media Release
An age-old problem? New report finds Sydney isn’t prepared for an ageing population.
23 May, 2019

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Matt Levinson

Sydney lacks the housing, transport and access to healthcare to meet the needs of a rapidly ageing population, according to a new report published today by the Committee for Sydney.

The report finds that in some areas of Sydney, over half of residents approaching retirement are considering leaving their suburb due to lack of facilities for older people.  

Exclusive polling undertaken for the report by Ipsos has found that close to 50% of Sydneysiders think that their suburb does not currently cater well for the needs of seniors and retirees. Amongst those who believe that the catering for retirement in their suburb is poor, over half expect to leave their area in retirement.

The figures also show that one-third of Sydneysiders are not confident that they will be able to support themselves in retirement – potentially putting a big strain on future public services.

The Committee for Sydney’s report, Dignity and Choice: An inclusive future for our ageing population, identifies key challenges that need to be overcome in order to ensure our cities remain inclusive and accessible for seniors. It has been developed in partnership with the not-for-profit organisation, Baptistcare and community housing company, Stockland.

Key recommendations include:

  • For retirees who rent, less than 1% of the private rental market is affordable to renters on the full aged pension. Baptistcare has also warned women over 55 are now the fastest growing demographic for homelessness in Sydney.
  • Over one million people in Sydney’s outer suburbs lack access to public transport, which disproportionately hurts those too old to drive.
  • Social isolation is a huge problem for seniors, with one third of older people already experiencing loneliness. The Council on The Ageing expects that the incidence of social isolation will more than double by 2040.
  • In NSW alone, the number of people living with dementia will increase from 120,000 to 300,000. Despite some exceptions, very few councils in Sydney have developed strategies to plan for the needs of people with dementia.
  • For retires that own their own home, existing planning and taxation legislation is making it harder to downsize. Stockland has found that this denies seniors access to equity in their homes and contributes to the broader affordability challenge facing major cities like Sydney by locking up the supply of multi-bedroom dwellings.

The Dignity & Choice report has identified over 30 different recommendations for federal, state and local government to help policy makers prepare for a future where one-quarter of our population will be aged 65 or over and where 15% of the population will be aged 75 or over.

These include:

  • Expanding the provision of affordable and social housing for renting retirees.
  • Reforming state tenancy laws to make federally funded ageing-friendly home modification funding more accessible for renting retirees.
  • Reforming federal and state taxes to make it more attractive for home owning retirees to downsize or move into retirement living facilities.
  • Adopting targets to expand public transport access in areas with higher numbers of people aged 70 or over, including through the adoption of more transport-on-demand services.
  • Tackling social isolation by investing in social infrastructure and community events that are ageing inclusive.
  • Investing in improving our streets, parks and public spaces to make them more seniors friendly and to encourage active ageing and walkability.
  • Developing local strategies to manage the forecast growth in local residents living with dementia.

Gabriel Metcalf, CEO of the Committee for Sydney said:

“The ageing of our population has implications for almost every area of public policy and for all levels of government”

“It’s important to start thinking about this challenge today because the buildings, public spaces, and infrastructure we build today will still be place when a full quarter of our population will be retirement age”

“Fixing the housing market, expanding public transport, and improving the quality of public spaces are things that will benefit all of us. But not investing in these areas is something that will be felt more acutely as people continue to age”.

“Many of the workers who contribute to the success of their city will one day seek to retire here, and we owe it to those individuals to design a city that is considerate of their needs and not just the needs of the next generation of workers”.

Kirrily lord, General Manager of retirement Living Operations and Legal Administration, Stockland said

“The recommendations for federal, state and local government in this Dignity & Choice report is in line with Stockland’s strategy to make valuable contributions to our communities and our country. 

This report identifies key priorities for Sydney moving forward. With an ageing population there is a crucial need for policy-makers to focus on improving housing accessibility, transport options and access to healthcare to meet the needs of our growing city.

Ultimately, we want all retirees to be able to continue enjoying their lives in a safe and friendly community environment while still maintaining their independence and this report makes proactive steps towards creating this reality.”

Ross Low, CEO of BaptistCare said:

“Older Australians deserve to be able to live happily and safely in Sydney. Although improving our infrastructure to support seniors requires significant effort and investment, we owe it to our elder generations to honour their contributions to Sydney to ensure they can live here comfortably in old age.

“Allowing our elders to be forgotten and side-lined is not the Australian way; we are a society that supports and celebrates our elders, and this must extend to ensuring that the city they love remains open to them in their later years by providing safe and affordable housing options.”

Note to editors:

1. The Committee for Sydney is an independent think tank and champion for the whole of Sydney, providing thought leadership beyond the electoral cycle. The Committee aims to enhance the economic, social, cultural and environmental conditions that make Sydney a competitive, resilient and liveable global city. The Committee has a diverse membership with over 150 member organisations: including the major corporate sectors driving Sydney’s economy; strategically minded local authorities; key NSW Government departments and agencies; not- for-profit organisations; and leading arts and sporting institutions. Members help develop and deliver priorities, provide expertise and ensure a representative geographical spread across the greater Sydney region.