Monday, February 26, 2024

More buses, less ageism: 15 ways councils can improve life for seniors

Dr Lindy Orthia.

OP ED by Dr Lindy Orthia, Senior Research Officer at National Seniors Australia.

The research is in: older Australians want to see changes in their local communities, from job opportunities to public toilets.

National Seniors Australia’s latest research report, Changing Local Communities to Improve Quality of Life, details 15 ‘wishes’ shared by people aged 50+ from across Australia.

The wishes are community-oriented changes that local councils can act on. They include more public transport, more local medical services, more activities, and more affordable housing.

Older Australians also want less ageism, less crime and less poorly planned development.
Notably, the 15th wish is for better government with less political corruption and greater consultation with residents in local council decisions.

The research is drawn from the 2022 National Seniors Social Survey which asked 2400 older Australians what needs to change in their community to improve their quality of life.

Hearteningly, some councils are doing a fantastic job supporting older people. A fifth of
survey respondents said they were satisfied with their community and no changes were

For example, a 74-year-old respondent said their town, “has magnificent walking trails,
adequate, great schools, excellent sporting clubs, regular bus services and train services to
[the state capital]. I can’t think of any changes that would improve our life quality.”

An 84-year-old respondent also wrote, “Local government in my area encourages older folk
to become involved in the activities planned. It is one of the most committed councils supporting its senior residents.”

However, three fifths of those surveyed made one or more suggestions for change, which
we distilled into 15 common themes.

Some of the suggestions were widely shared among respondents. One of the most consistent demands was for better public transport in commenters’ regions.

They also want to see widespread understanding of older people’s contributions and needs,
with more respect, less ageism, and greater community spirit.

As one 73-year-old explained, “Stop ghosting older persons, like their ideas are stupid and
don’t fit with current society ideals.”

The lack of activities for older people was often decried as was the prohibitive costs or
inaccessibility of community activities.

The wishes were often interlinked, with a 60-year-old writing, “I feel older people are
sometimes stuck at home as there isn’t always good close transport to take them places they may like to go and not always age appropriate things to do.”

Of course, every local government area is different so the needs will vary from one place to
the next.

The National Seniors Australia report is a guide not a blueprint, and we’re calling on councils to use it to consult with their older residents on what they want and need.

Residents can also use it as a foundation for lobbying their council to make the specific changes they want to see in their local area.

The full report can be downloaded from the National Seniors Australia website here or by
calling us.

Also available is a companion report, Older Australians, Community and Quality of Life,
which reports further research findings on this topic. It shows an overwhelming 80% of
survey respondents agreed that participating actively in the community can improve a
person’s quality of life.

However, barriers like broken footpaths and inadequate priority parking are impeding older
participation and quality of life.

Another growing problem is the decline of local newspapers and a move to online
communication. These changes prevent many older people from accessing community

These are structural issues, and many are included in the World Health Organization’s age-
friendly environments charter.

Now is the time for communities to work together to meaningfully include all of us.

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