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Affordable housing is essential for future age-friendly communities

December 7, 2017

Affordable housing is key to age-friendly communities, according to four Victorian ageing leaders who spoke at OCAV’s inaugural Conversations for Change.

 

Dr Helen Austin, OCAV resident and former palliative care physician, Dr Owen Donald, Chief Commissioner, Victorian Building Authority, Dr Sue Malta, Senior Researcher at the National Ageing Research Institute and The University of Melbourne and Rob McGauran, Founding Director, MGS Architects led the conversation from a variety of perspectives.  The event was hosted by Phillip Wohlers, CEO of OCAV.

 

Phillip Wohlers said the topic, What will an age-friendly community look like in 2050, was deliberately chosen because the issue mattered to every Victorian.

 

“Australians are living longer and healthier lives than any other time in human history,” he said. “People over the age of 80 are now the fastest growing age group in Victoria. Seven million Australians aged 50 to 75 years are facing an extended life expectancy. Some say the first person to live to 150 has already been born.”

 

Each panellist approached the topic from a different perspective, but the uniting word was ‘housing.’

Dr Austin told the guests that she and her husband had chosen OCAV’s Rushall Park village as their retirement home because of its community, values and services.

 

“OCAV is an age-friendly community. We don’t worry about maintenance, we are close to facilities, we are surrounded by interesting people, and there are no cliques,” she said.  “It is a big decision to downsize and to move into a retirement village, but it is one that we have no regrets about.”

 

Dr Donald posited four principles about what an age-friendly community should like with the first being that an older person should not have to move suburbs or into the bush because it is cheaper.

 

“We need to plan for a variety of housing which is safe and well-located with access to community and home-based services,” he said. “This is what age-friendly communities should look like, the challenge is will they?”

 

Dr Malta said that housing was essential to the health and well-being of older people.

 

“Currently a quarter of older Australians live below the poverty line, there is rental stress, and an increasing number of homeless people. These are major challenges,” she said.

 

However, an equal challenge is ensuring that government policy acknowledged that while the population was ageing, people were also healthier and wanted to work, volunteer, learn, and contribute to society.

 

“These factors will help keep aged care costs down for government but currently policies do not reflect this,” she said.

 

Mr McGauran echoed comments made by the other panellists, adding that despite claims to be the world’s most liveable city the statistics don’t lie.

 

“We are in Melbourne facing an affordability crisis with only 15% of all rental housing affordable for the lowest 40%+ of income earners, up from 25% in the early 2000s. Revolutions happen at 55%, he said.”

 

Mr McGauran said: “We need more innovation in how we create diverse and resilient communities. The baby boomer generation unlike earlier generations will not go quietly and wish to remain engaged and active.”

 

Conversations for Change is part of OCAV’s commitment to industry leadership. The association will publish a paper in early 2018 on What will an age-friendly community look like in 2050?

 

Caption: Owen Donald, Helen Austin, Rob McGauran, , Phillip Wohlers and Sue Malta at the forum.

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