Planning for an Ageing Population - Why plan for an ageing population
“An ageing population is everyone’s business.” 1
Planning for an ageing population will assist councils ensure that the Community Strategic Plan is based on social justice principles and addresses social considerations which are requirements of the new Integrated Planning and Reporting framework.
In NSW, as in most parts of the world, major population changes are taking place because of declines in fertility and increasing life expectancies. People in NSW are living longer (average life expectancy is projected to increase by about 9 years by 2050) and the proportion of the population made up of people aged 65 and over is projected to increase to 22% in 2031 and 26% by 2051. Population increase in the 15 to 64 years age group will slow over coming decades due to lower past and prospective fertility rates and the passage of the baby boomers into retirement age.2
Australia-wide trends, which are similarly reflected in NSW, from 2001 until 2100 have been graphically illustrated www.abc.net.au/news/specials/census-2011/.
By planning early, councils can take advantage of new opportunities as well as address challenges associated with an ageing population. In the words of one rural NSW local council,
“Seniors are a significant and growing part of local communities. This demographic trend will lead to new opportunities and challenges in local government. By considering this issue now, Council could possibly minimise the negative impacts of population ageing on local communities and maximise the opportunities it presents.”
Planning for an ageing population can mean that the needs of other groups in the community are also met. Therefore it does not necessarily mean extra work for councils. For example, designing the built environment so that it caters for older people often means that it also caters for other groups in the community that experience difficulty with physical access, such as people with a disability and children.
The Australian Local Government Association has pointed out that local government can lead by example in promoting the positives of an ageing population, for example, by recognising older volunteers and carers and through policies and practices that are aimed at attracting and retaining mature workers. This may assist councils address skills shortages.
1 Planning the local government response to ageing and place, Local Government and Shires Associations, 2004.
2 Towards 2030: planning for our changing population, NSW Government, 2008.