A new report has revealed Australians living in retirement villages are helping save taxpayers almost $1 billion in health care costs by delaying their entry into aged care.
The Retirement Living Council (RLC) last weekend launched a national report – Better Housing for Better Health – outlining the industry’s contribution to housing, healthcare and the 250,000 people who live in age-friendly communities across Australia.
RLC Executive Director Daniel Gannon said while the retirement living industry is often confused with aged care, the first-of-its-kind report sends a strong message to governments about the value of the sector, the affordability it provides in an otherwise unaffordable housing market and why its residents live healthier lives.
“Retirement villages across Australia are already saving the government a billion dollars a year, by delaying residents’ entry into aged care, and quite simply, we need more of them,” Mr Gannon said.
“People who live in retirement communities are less lonely and less depressed than older Australians who live independently, because retirement communities encourage physical wellbeing and social interaction – which all translates to economic benefits for governments.
“For the first time, this report shows how our sector has actual solutions to Australia’s two biggest worrying trends – our housing crisis and our rapidly ageing population,” he said.
Some of the key findings from Better Housing for Better Health include:
- National expenditure on aged care reduces by $945 million annually by delaying entry of ~11,600 people into residential aged care by two years.
- Residents interact less frequently with healthcare systems, and are:
- 20 per cent less likely to require hospitalisation after only nine months, and
- Avoid 14,000 annual hospitalisations.
- The current pipeline of retirement communities will reduce the housing shortage by 18 per cent.
- Growing this pipeline to meet current demand levels could reduce Australia’s housing shortage by 67 per cent.
In addition, the report also reveals that residents in retirement communities are:
- 15 per cent more physically active.
- 41 per cent happier, and both physically and mentally healthier.
- Five times more socially active.
- Twice as likely to catch up with family or friends.
- Have reduced levels of depression and loneliness, saving governments almost $5 million in additional healthcare costs.
Mr Gannon said there are currently two million Australians aged over 75 and this cohort will increase by 70 per cent to 3.4 million by 2040.
“This population shift will have socio-economic impacts on Australia, including the housing supply shortage and the pressure on an already struggling residential aged care sector,” he said.
“Age-friendly housing can reduce interactions between older Australians, GPs and hospitals, which releases capacity back into health systems for those who need it most when they need it most.
“Better housing that enables better health outcomes for ageing Australians is imperative, and the bonus is that it’s good for governments too,” Mr Gannon said.