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Medium and long-term pressures on the system: the changing demographics and dynamics of aged care

Background Paper 2

Australians aged 85 years or more will increase to more than 1.5 million people or 3.7% of the population by 2058.

The increase, from just over 503,685 people today or 2% of the population, is described in a background paper prepared for the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety and released today.

The paper describes the increase as being of a magnitude requiring "significant adjustments to the Australian economy and systems that support older people", but tempers this with an assertion that these changes are unlikely to be any greater than those that have occurred over the last 40 years.

The paper, Medium- and long-term pressures on the system: the changing demographics of aged care, puts Australia's ageing population under the microscope. It explores complex issues associated with the country's changing demographic profile, including changes in patterns of disease and dependency, the rising incidence of dementia, changing expectations and the changing cultural profile of the Australian community. It also explores current arrangements, future pressures and a greater need for preventative and restorative health.

Within its conclusions the paper says:

"The total supply of care will need to increase, with large absolute rises being required in the level of provision in each part of the aged care spectrum. At the same time, the structure of supply will need to shift, with larger increases in community care on the one hand and high-level care on the other."

The paper also points to likely cost pressures resulting from changes in the cost of different types of care and a decrease in the availability of informal care due to low birth rates in recent decades resulting in fewer adult children on hand to provide such care.

It also notes a strong increase in demand for community care, that is, care in the home outside of a residential aged care facility, and with fewer children to look after aged parents the cost of community care would likely increase.

The paper also examines the changing composition of the aged care workforce and the need for the sector to act more flexibly so that it can ensure care is focused on the individual and with it, provide a broader range of care options.

Background paper 2 is now available to view.