Read about how one council is already on-the-ball, planning the best services possible for its ageing residents and tapping into the benefits older people bring.


As debate continues over the impact of an ageing population following the release of the federal government's intergenerational report, a North Coast council has already begun planning how to care for and tap into the benefits of an older population.

Southern Cross University's Aged Services Learning and Research Centre (ASLaRC) is working with the Tweed Shire Council to help them with strategic planning for an older population. The project is funded through the NSW Government's Ageing, Disability and Home Care (ADHC).

"With the release of the 2010 Intergenerational Report, there is a lot of misinformation about the impact of an ageing population," said Professor Colleen Cartwright, director of ASLaRC.

"The report estimates that the number of Australians aged over 65 will rise from 13.5 per cent of the population to 22.6 per cent by 2050 and this is seen as very concerning. However, Tweed already has that percentage of people 65 and above, and it is not falling apart.

"Some councils are being very proactive and accepting that there will be higher numbers of older people and looking at how to prepare for that and make their communities age-friendly."

Professor Cartwright said that most of the 12 local government areas on the Mid North and North Coast were already well above the current average for older people residing in their area. In the Tweed Shire Council area, 25 per cent of the population is aged over 65 years.

She said the project under way in the Tweed would involve focus groups and surveys to determine the level of services currently provided, what was needed for the future and to identify the many unrecognised benefits provided by an older population.

The results will feed into the Tweed Shire Council's 10-year strategic plan.

"We anticipate that the outcome of this project will be relevant to a range of councils throughout the state, as many are facing the same challenges as the Tweed Shire Council and need to be incorporating that into their planning," Professor Cartwright said.

"We want to know what makes Tweed a good place for older people to live and what would make it better. We need to identify the gaps.

"This is about giving older people a voice in council planning. We are looking for people who have grown old in this area, people who holiday here and those who have retired to the region from somewhere else.

"A lot of what we hear about an ageing population is doom and gloom. But older people are providing a great deal of support in our communities. They are involved in a wide range of volunteer work and are usually very good neighbours. They support the arts and our libraries and contribute a lot of our social capital.

"They are the glue that will often hold a community together and we need to recognise that."