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Home News and media centre News Innovation is the key to housing independence for older people

Innovation is the key to housing independence for older people

Most older people want to remain living independently in their own home,* yet one-fifth of Australians aged 80 or older live in residential age care – one of the highest proportions in the world.**

In response, the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) has launched a position statement on Deinstitutionalisation in Aged Care, which sets out some practical solutions, starting with appropriately funded and structured home care, based on an older person’s needs.

‘As a nation, we can – and must – do better,’ OPAN CEO Craig Gear said.

‘As well as upholding an older person’s right to independence, effective and responsive home care makes good financial sense, since it is much more cost-effective than residential aged care.

‘Enabling older people to live independently, in their own homes, also requires greater investment in affordable and accessible housing options.

‘A large proportion of existing rental and social housing does not meet the required accessibility standards to support ageing in place.

‘Older people in the private rental sector face additional uncertainties including issues around security of tenure and rental increases.’

In the position paper, OPAN supports the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute’s (AHURI) call for innovation, including collaborative housing, rental retirement villages and home share arrangements.

‘Some older people need the sort of intensive support that is provided by residential aged care, but according to reports from advocates and feedback from OPAN’s National Older Persons Reference Group, many residential aged care environments resemble an institution rather than a home.” Mr Gear said.

‘OPAN is pleased the Department of Health and Aged Care is working on a new Residential Aged Care Accommodation Framework. We encourage older people and their families to get involved.

‘Let’s ensure any future builds adhere to the deinstitutionalised approach,’ Mr Gear said.

‘When building new developments, we urge sector stakeholders to consider older people’s preference for smaller-scale facilities.

‘Existing facilities can still address the issue through better design.’

OPAN’s position statement follows the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ new deinstitutionalisation guidelines for older people with disabilities, including those with dementia.

‘These guidelines explicitly address discrimination against older persons with disabilities in accessing support and services in the community and in their own homes,’ Mr Gear said.

Read OPAN’s position statement

*Productivity Commission 2011, Caring for Older Australians, Report No. 53, Final Inquiry Report, Canberra.
**Suzanne M Dyer, Madeline Valeri, Nimita Arora, Dominic Tilden and Maria Crotty (2020). Is Australia over-reliant on residential aged care to support our older population? Med J Aust 2020; 213 (4): 156-157. Published online: 29 June 2020. Access the article here.