In the context of an ageing population, AHURI researchers have made a significant contribution to how we understand the housing aspirations of older Australians; how older Australians and those with additional needs may be best assisted to live independently for as long as possible; the cost-effectiveness of different forms of integrated housing assistance; and housing affordability in relation to older Australians and those with additional needs.
What are the housing aspirations of older Australians and those with additional needs?
- Overwhelmingly, the evidence indicates that older Australians and those with a disability or other health impediments want to age in-place, live independently and actively engage in their communities.
- Older Australians value stable, secure, affordable accommodation that facilitates maximum levels of independent living for as long as possible — Project 20170, Project 50318, Project 70392 & NRV3. In addition, older Australians that have or are experiencing homelessness and people with mental health issues also value these things — Project 50102, Project 50018, Project 70072 & Project 70135.
- For older Australians in particular, outdoor and indoor space, such as a private garden or extra bedroom, are important as people tend to engage in more home-based activities with age — Project 50318 & Project 70392.
How can ageing-in-place and independent living be best facilitated?
- Well-integrated housing and support services facilitate the best outcomes for older people or those with additional needs. Evidence indicates that this approach can sustain tenancies and promote tenant wellbeing — Project 70311, Project 70135 & Project 20287.
- For older people in particular, home modifications and maintenance make a significant contribution towards a tenant’s ability to age in-place. The evidence indicates that older people who have used these services value them highly — Project 20335, Project 40005 & Project 50318.
What are the characteristics of a well-functioning housing and support service system?
- AHURI research indicates that successful elements of a well-integrated system include:
- a coordinated, whole-of-government approach
- close interdepartmental working relationships
- individualised support where a trusting relationship can develop between client and worker
- a variety of support options.
How are older people utilising their homes?
- A large proportion of older home owners continue to live in family homes which at first appear underutilised. However, rooms which may formerly have been used for sleeping are now used for hobbies and other pursuits which allow these people to maintain active, healthy lifestyles. Private outdoor open space is intensively used for gardening and entertaining. So these houses are not as underutilised as they may appear — Project 70392.
- As these people continue to age, modifications will be required to assist them with independent living for as long as possible. New houses should be designed for ready modification as this is more cost-effective — Project 70392.
How cost-effective is home-based care for older Australians?
- One of the few cost-benefit studies comparing the types of care for ageing Australians found that providing home-based care is less costly on average than residential care. The annual average cost of residential care is reportedly $48 710 per person whereas in-home formal care costs on average $7520 per annum. When in-home formal and informal care are implemented together the costs are on average $11 370 and where in-home informal care is used in isolation it is valued at $10 880 per recipient — Project 60313.
- Unsurprisingly both formal and in-formal care costs increased with age but did not significantly vary according to geographic differences. Tenure, however, does matter with public housing tenants recording the highest care costs and owner-purchasers recording the lowest care costs. Whilst a causal link remains unclear, the evidence indicates that it is not related to differences in care needs as residents across the different tenures reported similar rates of medical conditions, cognitive impairments and similar degrees of severity of these impairments— Project 60313.
What are the housing affordability issues for older people?
- For older Australians, the loss of a partner through bereavement, separation or divorce significantly impacts housing affordability and disrupts home ownership aspirations. In one study, home ownership rates reportedly fell from 69 per cent to below 50 per cent within two years following divorce or separation. The same study found that housing affordability stress is particularly acute for low-income private renters. These people often have less wealth than home owners and do not experience a reduction in rental payments in line with a shift to a single income like their public housing counterparts — Project 30315.
- Research indicates that home ownership provides older people with a greater sense of self-determination and choice over where and how they live in old age. In contrast to home owners, older private renters (especially women) are reportedly more fearful for the future. This can be largely attributed to their lack of wealth and security of tenure that is perceived to be important to living well in old age — See NRV3.
- Demand for public housing for older Australians is projected to significantly increase. This is due to housing affordability issues in the private rental market in conjunction with an ageing population — Project 30315 & Project 20170. Indeed, researchers have forecast that the number of people aged over 65 years in low-income private rentals will more than double by 2026 and two-thirds of these households will be sole women — Project 20170.