Action and Advocacy

In the lead up to Seniors Week 2019, we surveyed our members and the wider community on their wellbeing, opportunities for paid work and the places they call home.

Building on the State of the (Older) Nation 2018, our largest national survey of the views and life experiences of older Australians, our current findings shed light on the impact of both unemployment and housing insecurity on those over 50.

Participants

Using feedback from attendees at age-friendly expos and forums in 2019, as well as an online survey during September and October, we received 451 included responses. Ranging in Age from 50 – 93 years, with an average age of 69.7 years,1 276 of our participants were women and 141 men.

Findings


Wellbeing and Loneliness

I am so busy still, and also so lucky with good friends, good neighbours and good health.” – Mall Walker 2019, Age 71.

Overall, those over 50 rate their personal wellbeing high across the core domains of standard of living, health, personal achievements, relationships, safety, community connectedness and future security.

Using the standards for wellbeing set by the Australian Centre on Quality of Life, Australian Unity Wellbeing Index 35, the reported wellbeing from participants in 2019 was 75.1% overall, which is within the national normative range.2

Following on from the methods in the Australian Loneliness Report, when directly asked how participants felt, 71.5% reported that they rarely felt lonely. Only 19% felt lonely for at least a day, compared to 50.5% of Australians in general.

While the higher wellbeing, and lower rates of loneliness are a promising finding for over 50s in Western Australia. For those struggling to find work or secure their housing, the figures tell a different story.

Employment Status

Like many women my age my, small super was used up years ago, so I’m grateful for the pension. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to work, and I would like to see more recognition of the skills older people have to offer the workforce
– Care & Ageing Expo 2019, Age 68

I was in my 50s (late) and when I came back to Perth, my age was against me when I started applying for jobs. I did eventually get one only because I was recommended by a friend. – Online Survey Respondent, Age 61

Participants in any form of paid employment (full-time, part-time or casual) as well as those who chose to, or were able to retire, had substantially higher wellbeing than those who were unemployed.

The survey also asked participants rate their opportunity to engage in paid work. Just over 39% of responses indicated that that they did not feel that had access to paid work while 57% of participants felt that they were treated less favorably by employers due to their age. Opportunity to engage in paid work was positively correlated with wellbeing3 and negatively correlated with loneliness.4

These results suggest that people over 50 who are unemployed and willing to work, feel the negative impact of unemployment on their wellbeing and sense of connection, just as much as younger cohorts, and yet they are also more likely to be looking for work for longer periods of time.

Housing Status

I want to remain living where I am… without my wife I’m finding it difficult to manage on my own. – Have a Go Day 2019, Age 65

The wellbeing of those who own their home outright, or are living in a retirement village was substantially higher than those who still owe on a mortgage into their older age, as well as those who are renting.

The difference in wellbeing between those who own their home outright and those living in private rental was large and statistically significant.5

A person in private rental was also 2.5 times less likely to report that they felt that their housing was affordable compared to those who owned their home outright, and even 2 times less likely than those with a mortgage. A respondents appraisal of their housing affordability was positively correlated with their wellbeing6 and negatively correlated with their feeling of loneliness.7

For participants over 50, home ownership and housing affordability is related to beneficial levels of wellbeing and a reduced chance of feeling lonely compared to those in other housing situations.

Conclusion

Both mature-age employment and housing are two areas of policy priority for COTA Australia. As older age groups are the fastest growing segment of the population, there has never been a more pressing time for broad collaboration to influence positive ageing.

Leading into 2020, COTA (WA) will be examining further how these issues unevenly impact different groups of older Western Australians, and continuing to advocate for those cohorts of older Western Australians at risk of missing out on the Age-Friendly cities and communities approach.

Appendix

  1. Standard deviation = 8.28 years
  2. Normative personal wellbeing range nationally = 74.2% – 76.7%
  3. r (155) = .48, p < .001)
  4. rs (116) = -.26, p<.001)
  5. tw (74.3) = 3.70, p<.001, d=.58
  6. r (332) = .26, p < .001)
  7. rs (332) = -.20, p < .05).