This landmark report on the experiences and views of Older Australians is the third of the COTA Federation’s State of the Older Nation (SOTON) reports. After another year living with COVID-19, combined with natural disasters at home, conflict overseas and cost-of-living pressures, it is perhaps unsurprising that COTA’s 2023 report tells the story of a cohort who aren’t feeling as good about the future as they used to.
This research was commissioned by the Federation of nine Councils on the Ageing (COTA) across Australia – including all eight COTA state and territory organisations and COTA Australia – in order to understand the views, life experiences and needs of Australians aged 50+.
The contents of this report present an opportunity for policy makers to represent Older Australians in their interventions. Older Australians are increasingly feeling like things are getting worse for them, fewer feel financially secure, and more are reporting difficulties accessing health services – with experiences even worse among vulnerable people. The COTA Federation is proud to present the information in this report to inform policy debates now and into the future.
The full 2023 report explored a range of topics including Quality of Life and Sentiment about the Future; Financial Security and Cost of Living; Employment for older workers; Ageism, Age Discrimination and Elder Abuse; Health and Health Services; Intentions to Travel; Housing; the ongoing effects of COVID-19 on older people; and older people use, skills and access to Technology.
Key findings from the study include:
Negative personal expectations for the future reflects a broader pessimistic outlook
As well as overarching worries and concerns, there has been a steady wave on-wave decline in the proportion of those feeling positive above what the future personally holds for them, from 70% in 2018 to 65% in 2021 and only 60% in 2023. Reported social, mental, and physical health does not seem to have bounced back to pre-COVID levels. Of concern, nearly one in five older Australians (19%) feel quite worried about what the future holds for them, and this is linked to poorer mental, physical and financial health.
Cost of living pressures are impacting the quality of life
As the cost of living continues to rise, older Australians are becoming increasingly pessimistic about their financial prospects, with fewer now seeing themselves as very financially secure. Older Australians who report being in a poor financial situation are particularly affected, with financial stress being the key reason for feeling like things are getting worse (59% mentioned this, compared to 31% in the previous survey).
Increasing difficulty in accessing health services
Older Australians have faced increasing difficulty accessing medical services, especially vulnerable groups. Reasons include long waiting lists and costs. Difficulty in access is markedly more likely to be experienced by some more vulnerable groups such as those who are unemployed, living with a disability, speak a language other than English or have experienced a significant loss of income in the last 12 months.
1 in 4 workers feel they will never retire, with vulnerable groups especially likely to feel this way
Around a quarter (24%) of older Australians who are still working feel they will never retire, with those in financially precarious or vulnerable positions significantly more likely to feel this way.
35% of older Australians have experienced some form of age-related discrimination since turning 50
Employment-related discrimination is the most common form, either in the workplace or when seeking employment – 24% of older Australians have experienced it, which remains consistent with the previous survey (26%).
Over 1 in 5 (22%) Older Australians surveyed are renting, with many vulnerable groups significantly more likely
Renting is more prevalent among Older Australians who:
- Worry about their risk of homelessness in the next 12 months: 67% are renters
- Identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander: 55% are renters
- Are not in paid employment: 47% are renters
- Have a disability: 38% are renters
- Identify as LGBTQ+: 38% are renters
- Are single: 37% are renters
- Their primary source of income is a government pension: 34% are renters.