The single older woman who doesn’t own her own home has become one of the most at-risk groups in Australia due to the rising cost of rent and the lack of jobs for older Australians.
The situation for older women has worsened in recent years with instances of homelessness increasing year on year. Couch surfing among older women has almost doubled over the past four years and there has been a similar rise in the number of older women sleeping in cars, a report by Homelessness Australia has found.
“The loss of a relationship, not sufficient superannuation to fall back on as an individual and not owning your home getting towards the point of retirement … your income has no chance paying for a rental in the current environment,” Homelessness Australia CEO Jenny Smith said.
A study published in the Journal of Rural Studies looked at a group of 47 older women who do not own homes in regional New South Wales. Nearly all of the 47 women lived on low incomes, and their housing ranged from hotel rooms to makeshift sheds to rundown flats. Only two of the 47 participants had never had a partner and 43 participants had borne children.
When asked about their housing priorities, there was a universal desire for privacy, stability and security, as most participants had very disrupted housing histories. While some of the group were against shared housing, nearly all the women wanted some sort of garden and a space to accommodate their grandchildren and pets.
“If the housing problems that many single, older women experience are to be solved, housing policymakers need to be informed by research about what makes these women’s lives meaningful and productive,” said Southern Cross University lecturer Yvonne Hartman.
What do you think? Does more need to be done to combat homelessness in Australia? Do we need to implement strategies towards helping single older women, in particular?