The Meeting Place

Growing old in rural and remote Australia

The Australian Journal of Rural Health has published a special issue focusing on older persons’ health in rural, regional and remote Australia.

Jointly edited by Dr Evelien Spelten (La Trobe University) and Professor Oliver Burmeister (Charles Sturt University), the issue draws together 13 research papers that show ageing is not just about institutionalised care, illness and death.

“We have a rapidly ageing population, that is also wealthier, better educated, better housed, and contributes more to both paid and volunteer work,” the report editorial stated.

They point out that “with this growing ageing population, the challenge for our rural health care system is to relate to this population and to align our system of health care with their needs”. 

They note that this may need to “...  be more diverse and not fitted to a ‘one size fits all seniors’ approach.”

The 13 articles in this special issue of the Journal together advocate for rural health issues, address health research and policy, examine Indigenous and multicultural issues in rural communities, palliative care, and more.

Professor Russell Roberts emphasised the importance of the broad scope of articles which are presented in this issue.

“This issue presents the latest research on a vast variety of topics such as the extent of elder abuse, treating anxiety and depression in older adults, the ageing farming workforce, increasing social participation and examples of successful program initiatives so that older people in the bush get the same level of access to mental health services as those living in the capital cities.”

In addition to challenging widely held misconceptions about growing old, this issue highlights the importance of involving seniors in the research and in the shaping of health care solutions that affect them. This fits closely with the increasing trend to engage with service users to tailor appropriate solutions.

Do you live in a rural or remote area of Australia? What challenges do you face ageing in these areas? Do you think there are benefits? Do the benefits outweigh the challenges?

8 comments

I have only JUST sold my house in rural western Qld and returned to a Brisbane suburb. Just far too many negatives to stay there, and I have sold at a considerable loss.

Country towns are very isolating for incomers, especially singles. I was brought up in the country, and love the outdoors, actually prefer the country to the city. BUT not for a senior.  Though I volunteered with a number of community activities, I was never really one of them. I hada good job in govt, but a new incoming boss made my life and job a nightmare. Despite wanting to work for a number of years I was forced out of the job, and then found it almost impossible to find any other work in the town. Medical treatment for a condition I have was only available in the city, which meant costly and lengthy visits. The local Council rates were dearer than in the city. I did have some friends in the town, but invariably they moved away. There were limited activities for seniors to do, no public transport, extremely limited shopping facilities and no competiton for power supply meant huge power bills. Flights from the town to capital city were dearer than flying to Bali.

Trying to get some home maintenance issues done was a nightmare. I had beautiful timber byfolds that needed some work. But it would have meant taking them out, and shipping them over 350 kms away. Cost would have been nearly $2500. In city - just get someone out and it is done. Tradesmen costs were dearer, car service costs were 3 times what I pay in city. 

Luckily, I had not sold my home in the city so moved back, and SO glad I did. I kept my country home for a while, but being negatively geared, on the pension it wasn't viable. The banks want large deposits for country home purchases, and the banks grossly undervalue a house, and will only loan accordingly. So I lowered the price, got an offer, and accepted it. I simply could not have afforded to stay in the country town, costs were just prohibitive. I came across quite a few other people who had mistakenly moved to the country thinking retirement would be better. But they had sold their city homes, and could not get back into city real estate. I just thank heavens I did not sell my city home. So no - definitely any benefits are minor - challengers are major. 

Agree with what you say sunnyOz

.....the matter that you did not mention is the inadequate health care availability for seniors in the rural areas.

I have lived in Many locations ie Rual,Regional,Remote and Suburbia.

The main is Medical accessibilty, it doesn't mean Quaility and the same with transport Reliability.

As for Work Situation @ Everywhere and mean Spirited People.

Other than Suburbia all the other communities Need the Influx To Survive.But Narrow Minded Self Entiled People in the other areas don't get it, only winge when the area dies or services are Depleted.

Should be welcoming to replace those who are leaving (HAD ENOUGH OF @)

There is rural and then there is ... rural; I think it depends how far your rural idyll is from city type services. If you are able to drive or catch bus and it's only an hour or two, it's a different matter altogether if it's a couple of hours by air. 

I have to agree with sunny. I too was in a similar situation. Perhaps it is a bit easier for couples, but as a single also, I found country living extremely isolating. I rented out my city place, and rented in the country for 3 years to give it a go, but found there were far too many negatives. I had been to this country town previously, and had the 3 things I looked for. Airport, hospital, local govt agencies.

Lack of medical facilities, no transport, limited activities for seniors, etc. I too was in a job I loved, but in a toxic extremely unsupportive govt department. There appear to be 2 tiers in govt jobs - the bludgers who's only expertise is sucking up, and getting promoted and always getting every cushy task. Or the good workers - who those same bosses see as a threat so are determined to step on them at every turn and grind them into subservience, destroying them in the process. My department was known for being very happy to take on contract seniors - but to NEVER give a permanent job to anyone over 50. It was a known fact. So after 4.5 years of contract work, always excellent revues, got replaced with a 20yo, girlfriend of one of the senior bosses sons. Appointed on merit? - what a complete joke. I made the mistake of appealing the decision, so any reference check was met with 'she's a trouble maker' so could not get any other job in the town.

I got so sick of volunteering, in the end it seemed I was almost working full time. Then went on Aged Pension and the nightmare of dealing with Centrelink (renting city house, etc) was just too much. They really are the most unhelpful bunch, and I never spoke to 2 people who had the same answer to my questions. Plus the fear of a fake Robo Debt in X years, made my decision easier. Anyone who says it is cheaper in the country is blatantly lying. No it's not! I wanted to get a full detail for my car - I nearly passed out when the quote was $545! In the city - cost me $125.  No competition with power companies, so they won't give any deals. 

Country living is great for the younger ones, but I could not recommend it for seniors. I am SO much happier to be back in the city and not see the same faces every single day.

If you're born in a rural area and love it there, I can understand your wanting to continue lving there, despite the hardships. What I find incomprehensible is why an older person would want to voluntarily go to live in an area where healthcare is limited, modes of transport limited and poor access to doctors. There are many suburbs outside of main cities which are almost rural and even more pleasant to live and which have the facilities important for a senior.

I left the city permanently the year I turned 30. Since then I’ve lived in remote, rural (coastal) areas and even in a small developing country. I’d never return to the city. 

My permanent home is in a small regional city with excellent medical facilities, and within 3 hours of some of the best medical facilities in the country, if I can’t get a local service. It is much more affordable to live there. Parking and shopping is much easier than in the city, and there are great farmers markets. I wouldn’t live in the city again if you paid me.

I’m currently living and working in a remote area, and would not stay here permanently, as it is too far from most services. Trying to get exercise programs suitable for older people, is difficult, for example. However, we have excellent doctors who bulk bill, and I have a lovely group of friends, unlike the experiences of others.

One bus a day, five days a week to the nearest city, (launceston) Rubbish health provision state wide but far worse out here in these rural areas. If I had thought beyond the immediate I would have stayed put in big city suburbia.

Neil.

One bus a day, five days a week to the nearest city, (launceston) Rubbish health provision state wide but far worse out here in these rural areas. If I had thought beyond the immediate I would have stayed put in big city suburbia.

Neil.

Well I live like a king for 6 to 8 month overseas with the minimum pension ($867) and have all the medical I required and pay for myself out from the minimal pension ..... Come to Bali, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and live like a king on a unit with sea views or home with all facilities and transport everywhere you want to go and hospitals that help you immidiately .... not long waits ... so this may be the solution for some of you that can adjust to different life and different people .....

Yeah, well don't call us when they start throwing out all the Aussies!

8 comments