Election priorities for older Australians

A leading seniors advocacy group has released an agenda that it says the next government must urgently address.

Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia has released 37 recommendations across 12 policy areas that it wants the next federal government to focus on. The policy areas include retirement income, health, elder abuse, aged care and digital and social inclusion.

COTA chief executive Ian Yates says the recommendations are not aimed at any one party and that both sides of politics have achieved good things for older Australians.

“Our focus is on what can be achieved in the next three years. That’s what matters to older people, and indeed their families, which is really all Australians,” Mr Yates says.

Read: Push for opt-in Universal Age Pension ahead of federal election

One of the key commitments COTA is looking for from a future government is a commitment to tackle ageism in Australia in all its forms, including in employment opportunities, health treatment and even in reporting by the media.

An Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) survey found 90 per cent of Australians believe ageism exists here and 64 per cent had experienced it themselves in the past five years.

“It’s time to remove ageism from Australia – especially to strengthen age discrimination legislation so it’s actually effective, because it’s a failure now – and tackling it in employment services and the healthcare system is a priority,” Mr Yates says.

Read: What to do if you suspect financial elder abuse

Elder abuse
Elder abuse can take on many forms, including financial, physical, psychological, emotional and sexual abuse as well as neglect.

Elder abuse is often perpetrated by those whom the victim trusts – family, carers, neighbours and friends. COTA wants a future government to set up a 10-year strategy to deal with the issue.

“Elder abuse is widespread, poorly identified and often difficult to prove,” Mr Yates says.

“While often highlighted as an issue in nursing homes, elder abuse is far more common, and far less reported, in the community – usually from family members and close friends.”

Read: Aged care reform blasted as government tallies the money spent

Aged care reform
Australia’s aged care system has come under unprecedented pressure over the past two years, and experts have been calling for reform for some time.

“A major process of transformative reform is under way after the recent royal commission into aged care,” Mr Yates says.

A new human rights-based Aged Care Act must increase the rights of older people, improve transparency and place the older person at the centre of the care delivered.

Retirement income
The retirement income system in Australia – both the Age Pension and superannuation – have been under a policy microscope for some time now, but COTA wants a future government to implement a number of firm changes, including reviews into the Age Pension assets and income tests.

“Australia should stamp out unfounded speculation that the Age Pension may not be there in the future by establishing a bipartisan ‘Pension Guarantee’, ” says Mr Yates.

For super, COTA is asking that super funds be mandated to provide regular ‘retirement income projections’ at five-year intervals for members once they reach age 45. The projections would be based on a standardised set of criteria and variables.

Mr Yates says this will help retirees get a better idea of how long their super will last and stop people living unnecessarily frugal lives in retirement.

“Rather than use their superannuation to provide a better standard of living, many older people live frugally, in fear of their own longevity, and end up dying with large superannuation balances that only benefit their inheritors. This must change.”

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Written by Brad Lockyer