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Victoria’s population is ageing.1 In 2021 there were almost 1.5 million Victorians aged 60 years or older. This represents 22 per cent of the total population. By 2046 that number is expected to increase by around 60 per cent to more than 2.3 million people. By that point, about 25 per cent of the population will be 60 years of age or older.

The older population will increase more quickly than younger cohorts. Compared with the 60 per cent increase in the older population over the next 25 years, the population aged 20 to 59 years is expected to grow by 40 per cent. This younger cohort will remain at around 55 per cent of the total population throughout this period.

The older population is not a uniform group. Each sub-group of the population has different needs and is growing at a different rate. There are currently around 280,000 Victorians aged 80 or older, which is 4.3 per cent of the population. This age group is growing even faster than the older population as a whole. By 2046 it will have more than doubled in number and account for about 7 per cent of the total population. We can expect more frail and vulnerable older people living in their own homes for much longer. This includes increasing numbers of those living with dementia.

Among the older population there are more women than men, but the balance is changing. In 2021, 58 per cent of the 80+ population was female. As the gap between women’s and men’s life expectancy narrows, by 2046 the population aged 80 or older is expected to be about 56 per cent female and 44 per cent male.

The 2016 Census2 shows that 27 per cent of Victorians aged 60 or older are from non–English speaking backgrounds. This compares with 21 per cent for Victorians under 60 years of age. Greater Melbourne has the highest proportion of senior Victorians from non–English speaking backgrounds (35 per cent of people aged 60+). Geelong (14 per cent), Latrobe–Gippsland (10 per cent), Shepparton and Hume (8 per cent respectively) also have large rates of older people from non–English speaking backgrounds living locally.

The number of people aged 60 or older is higher in rural and regional Victoria (26 per cent in 2016) than in Greater Melbourne (18 per cent). This difference is expected to continue over the long term. Rapid and uneven growth for older people in regional areas has knock-on effects for services and communities. This is especially true for local government areas where a large share of the population is getting close to retirement age. In the Borough of Queenscliffe, for example, half of the population is older than 60 years and nine months (median age equal to 60.8). In the Shire of Loddon the median age is 54.

The number of older people in private homes is likely to grow as the population ages. More older people are living longer in their own homes. About half the people living alone are over the age of 60. This number will increase over time. As they tend to live longer than men, women represent almost two-thirds of the people over 60 who live alone.

The action plan recognises the influence of the social determinants on health and people’s experience of ageing. Many senior Victorians identify with attributes and traits that can combine to create overlapping systems of disadvantage, discrimination and barriers to ageing well. This action plan adopts an intersectional approach, with particular regard for older Aboriginal Victorians.

We developed Victoria’s Closing the Gap implementation plan in partnership with the Aboriginal community-controlled organisation sector, using shared governance structures. Under the plan the government is working to identify and embed initiatives that enable Aboriginal Elders to live longer, healthier and active lives. It highlights community engagement and connection in line with cultural protocols. This will be through embedding mandatory consideration of the needs and rights of Elders in all aspects of Victoria’s implementation plan, including in each sector strengthening plan. We will also give early consideration to standalone policy for Aboriginal Elders.

The action plan recognises that senior Victorians from migrant and refugee backgrounds can face extra challenges in keeping social connections and taking part in community life. This is often the case where there are language and communication barriers. The action plan recognises that LGBTIQ+ seniors may lack family connections and be at risk of isolation as a result of ageing.

As our population ages, we can expect more people to live to a very old age. More people will live longer in their own homes with support. Ageing well in Victoria sets out actions to address the needs of different groups of older people in Victoria in four priority areas.

References

[1] This section uses unpublished Victorian Government Projections (2021) unless otherwise stated. These figures are supplied by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP). They are based on unpublished internal modelling. DELWP is the agency responsible for developing the official state government population projections. These include the latest population estimates, evidence form the latest Census plus assumptions about future births, deaths, migration and local development trends.

[2] All 2016 data are from the ABS Census of Population and Housing (2016).

Reviewed 27 June 2022

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