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No Panic on Ageing

A panel of distinguished demographers and social scientists speaking at the Institute of Actuaries' conference in Coolum today were relatively unanimous that the ageing of the Australian population over the next 50 years would be a manageable event.

Emeritous Professor Jack Caldwell of ANU saw the working age population remaining a relatively stable percentage at between 60 and 65% of total population. Whilst the dependent population of 65+ would rise significantly (and 0-14 age % fall correspondingly) we would see ad hoc policy measures to allow society to cope in much the same way as Australia coped with a boom of children to educate and support in the 1950's and 60's.

Dr Judith Healy saw many positive impacts of ageing from older age groups showing higher well-being and satisfaction ratings than middle aged age groups. Whilst concerns are often raised of health care cost blow-outs from ageing societies, comments from both Dr Healy and Professor Caldwell indicate these views are misdirected. Overseas comparisons show health care cost rises are associated with expensive technologies used for aggressive medical interventions in the last year of life and not related to period spent living post retirement.

Comments by Dr Clive Hamilton of The Australia Institute could be interpreted to show positive signs of retirees being able to live within available financial resources based on observations of a new trend labelled downshifting. This is where people make a deliberate decision to reduce working hours or income and consume less. Studies have shown these people to be happier than higher income groups.

Posted Wednesday, 21 May 2003

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