Ageing, Disability & Home Care

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Toolkit to help 'age-proof' councils

15 September 2011



NSW councils must be innovative with their planning strategies and creative with their use of resources to ensure they can meet the future challenges of an ageing community – but the NSW Government has developed a way to prepare them.

Local Government Minister Don Page and Minister for Ageing Andrew Constance today announced a new online toolkit which will prepare councils for an ageing population, and outline the challenges that creates for their finances, resources, community services, and asset management planning.

The Planning for an Ageing Population toolkit uses data from a report forecasting the impacts that ageing populations might have on councils. It offers ways councils can evolve to continue providing suitable services for their changing communities.

“Planning for an Ageing Population will guide councils on how they can prepare for, provide for, and best utilise the residents of an ageing population,” Mr Page said.

“Using information from recently-released Local Government and Ageing Report, the Ageing Population toolkit should ensure councils are not only ready to meet any financial challenges that may come as a result of things like lower rates, but are able to turn the age shift into a positive by altering their future community projects.”

Among the key points of the Local Government and Ageing Report are:
It is time to raise awareness of the fact that councils’ ratepayers are ageing
Asset management plans must consider that an ageing population will have different needs – perhaps more community halls, perhaps fewer football fields or playgrounds
Ageing populations have significant benefits to volunteer and community programs – many retired professionals offer their skills to their communities post-retirement
The expectations seniors have of community services in 2011 has changed – bingo is less popular, while more active and mentally stimulating pastimes are sought after
Seniors consider basic things like fishing and library services as cherished assets
Councils must consider future community transport options during the day
It is possible to review community programs, cutting some and adding others to meet community expectations with an almost cost-neutral outcome
Basic examples such as; older populations are less likely to have their nature strips mowed which means a greater demand for councils’ gardening services.

The Report was developed using information from surveys and focus groups from a selection of NSW local governments representing regional and coastal towns, metropolitan centres, and rural areas, with differing populations and demographics.

“The population of NSW is ageing rapidly. It is expected that by 2030, the proportion of people aged over 65 will have increased from 14 per cent to 22 per cent, while the number of centenarians will increase eight-fold,” Mr Constance said.

“It is projected that in the next decade NSW will have more people aged over 65 than people aged 15 or less. We must ensure there is appropriate housing and services for older citizens for long periods – people’s retirements often last 20 or 30 years.”

“Local governments are well positioned to deal with the impacts of changing populations because they can ensure that the physical, social and economic environment of their communities are responsive to demographic change, and can provide 
services and programs that are flexible and appropriate,” Mr Page said.

“Population trends prove councils will have to understand what an ageing population will mean for them – by ignoring it, communities could be ill-equipped to cope.

“Councils will have to borrow ideas from each other, and councils which successfully confront the challenges of an ageing population in the short-term can have their methods analysed by councils which expect to meet those challenges long-term.”

The toolkit is at the Division of Local Government website: www.dlg.nsw.gov.au

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