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Tue 23 October

Question: Who benefits? Answer: The Seniors themselves

Portrait of Graeme T Smith

Graeme T Smith

Who benefits if Australian Seniors stay put in their own homes?......The Seniors themselves for starters.

Of all the beneficiaries created by Australian Seniors staying put in their own conventional housing, the most obvious category includes the Seniors themselves.

And benefits flow not only to Seniors with the financial and physical capacity to stay in their own homes, but also to those Seniors who need to move to some form of assisted living arrangements.

Firstly, we'll investigate the "well prepared" majority who have the option of choosing to stay put.  (I resisted the temptation to describe these Seniors as the "lucky ones".  Early planning and preparation – financial, physical modifications to home, and personal health and fitness – are far more significant than luck).

While the benefits to those Seniors who stay in their own homes are not easily quantified financially, they cannot be dismissed as merely "feel good" considerations.  There are huge dollar savings involved in the following:-

Sense of self reliance and independence

Australia's ability to survive the unprecedented demand on its health and housing systems as the Baby Boomer tsunami hits our shores, will be largely determined by the levels of self-reliance and independence felt by our Senior population.

That feeling of self-reliance and independence, of continuing to "pay our own way", without being hooked up to a drip feed of welfare or family financial assistance, is the reward our Seniors deserve for years of planning and preparation.

Sense of ongoing community contribution

In addition to the benefits of being able to look after ourselves, which are enhanced within our own home environment, Australia's Seniors also benefit from, and actively pursue, opportunities to help others who we view as long term or temporarily "worse off than us".

Having more available time only partly explains the over representation of Seniors in most volunteering activities.  Indeed the average age of volunteers within operations such as Meals on Wheels is only marginally less than the average age of the recipients of their assistance.

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The "community" serviced by our Seniors frequently includes a degree of simultaneous care-giving to one or more of five family generations, which will be explored further in the next category of beneficiaries.

Increased commitment to health and fitness

This is a classic "chicken and egg" scenario.

The vast majority of Australia's Seniors want to stay in the conventional housing of their choice forever.  Their ability to do so is reliant on several factors, none more important than their health and fitness, including strength, flexibility and balance.

So on the one hand their ability to stay put is largely determined by their health and fitness, and on the other, their wish to stay put provides the greatest motivation to maintain, or retain, a level of health and fitness which allows the housing lifestyle of their choice long term.

The "Share of Wallet" benefit

Of all the reasons Australia's Seniors want to stay in their own homes, the cost to do so, relative to available alternatives, is near the top of the list.

Compared with Nursing Home care, assisted living arrangements at a Hostel, or even a move to an independent living unit within a Retirement Village, the proportion of available financial resources required to stay put at home is substantially, and progressively less.

Even after Federal Government contributions, recently quoted at $42,880 a year for people needing high-level care and $15,565 for those on low-level care, Seniors, other than the very financially comfortable, are required to spend most of their own financial resources to receive that level of care.  Accommodation and care assume almost 100% "Share of Wallet".

Seniors within their own homes have choices on how they spend their money, depending obviously of how well they have prepared financially for this stage of their life, and the great unknowns of health and longevity.  Therefore, expenditure on more discretionary, pleasurable and positive activities achieves a relatively high "Share of Wallet".

So how can the Seniors who are unable to stay in their own homes, benefit from the actions of those that do?

The answer is explained by the law of supply and demand.

Unless every opportunity is vigorously pursued to assist and encourage Australia's Seniors to stay put in their own homes, the demand for places in all variations of assisted living will escalate, as will the prices charged, to levels never witnessed before, and which will inevitably overwhelm the housing and health systems we know today.

How else do you see Australia's Seniors benefiting from a decision to stay in their own conventional housing?

What other factors impact on this decision?

Please contribute your comments below.

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