Growing old a growing problem

November 11, 2011 by Ayal Tusia
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Australia’s Jewish community faces some very real challenges as a result of the ageing of the population.

A new report released today by Jewish Care and the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation at Monash University, outlines the issues facing the community.

Older Jewish Australians represents a first time collation of census data and survey findings, to provide detail and direction for planning.

Professor Andrew Markus, of the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation at Monash University and the report’s lead author, commented that “Australia’s Jewish community has a far higher proportion of people aged over 65-84 than the general community and that proportion will increase substantially; for example, Victoria’s Jewish population aged 75-84 is projected to increase from 4,130 in 2021 to 7,469 in 2031 – an 81 percent increase over the decade. This will place significant pressure on the community’s resources and funding.”

The report, the third in the GEN08 project which was established to consider change over the next twenty years, shows clear need for Jewish organisations to work in partnership with one another and with government to create a system that continues to be responsive to the distinctive and diverse needs of the community.

Professor Markus notes that religious and ethnic diversity within the Jewish population raise additional complications for the provision of culturally appropriate care and support.

There has been much discussion concerning the ageing of the Australian population, with the Productivity Commission’s major report Caring for Older Australians submitted to the Gillard Government in June 2010.

The Third Intergenerational Report, released last year, predicted that Australia’s population aged 65 and over will increase from the present 13.5% to 22.7% by 2050.

But in some immigrant communities, whose growth was most rapid in the post-war decades (1945-65), the ageing is occurring much sooner.

Within the Jewish population of Victoria and New South Wales, presently more than 18% are aged 65 and over, and the proportion is projected to exceed 22% by 2026, almost a quarter of a century earlier than within the total population.

Jewish Care, which employs over 550 staff supported by 300 volunteers to provide aged care, disability and community services, is committed to meeting client and community needs and expectations heading towards 2030.

“It’s important to recognize that 72 percent of those currently aged 75-84 indicated a preference for a Jewish aged care service. Plus, this year, the first baby boomers reach 65. This generation will have very clear expectations about what they want.” Jewish Care Victoria CEO Bill Appleby said.

“Change has been a constant in the Jewish community, shaped by waves of migration during the 20th century. The Jewish community has been able to proactively and effectively respond to these changes by developing a range of services which have taken into account the diverse needs of this community at a particular time in history” said Mr. Appleby.

“Jewish organisations have always been at the forefront of this issue – providing some of the earliest models of care for older people. It’s now our goal to ensure we respond responsibly, proactively and sensitively to meet the needs within our growing community” said Mr. Appleby.

However, Jewish Care recognizes that meeting those needs means fully understanding shifts in government social policy.

“The Productivity Commission’s landmark reports Caring for Older Australians and Disability Care and Support highlight the need for better services that are consumer focused, offering choice, flexibility, quality, access and sustainability for the longer term. They also recommend a move to a more flexible consumer based entitlement system rather than the current rationing system. This represents a key shift to consumer self determination and sector competition. The implications of the Jewry 2030 Ageing Report from a service planning perspective at Jewish Care are clear; when overlaying the Commonwealth’s policy direction with key understandings of a changing Australian Jewish community” Mr. Appleby said.

“There’s a real need to grow capacity within Jewish Care to support people’s desire to remain living independently in their homes for as long a possible. Jewish Care is expanding both its Carer Support programs and Respite options.

The organisation’s strategic plan, 2011 Towards Tomorrow, sets a clear focus, driven by the concepts of imagine and create” said the Jewish Care CEO.

However, it would appear the challenge is not about the creation of more residential places, but to ensure the existing facilities and services reflect the desires of consumers into the future.

“Aged buildings need to be replaced to ensure Jewish Care Victoria can compete with non-Jewish providers to become ‘top of mind’ with a quality point of difference. The challenge moving forward will be to build senior environments that are dynamic, integrated and desirable by the new consumers. Adaptable senior living environments that can be used flexibly as the needs of the community evolve and as government policy changes” said Mr. Appleby.

Jewish Care is passionate about taking the steps needed to be prepared for what lies ahead.

“Knowledge is an expensive investment, however ignorance is unaffordable” he said.

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