With the state election due in March, Council on the Ageing (COTA) SA is urging the incoming Government to put the needs of the over 55s, particularly those in regional areas, high on the agenda.
The advocacy group which represents the rights, interests and futures of more than 633,000 older South Australians, has produced an election platform containing 18 recommendations centred around seven key priorities from ageism and housing to wellbeing and employment.
Chief executive Jane Mussared says the priority areas have been informed by the community through consultation, surveys, conversations, social media, letters and emails.
"Top of our list is supporting older people in our regions. Over a quarter of our population live in regional and remote areas, and while there are many positives to living in these communities, there are sacrifices in quality of life due to a severe lack of services, housing and aged care options, staffing and transport," Ms Mussared said.
"The State Government has an opportunity to lead the nation in building strong and cohesive communities in regional SA, but to do so, we need a practical response to the challenges and possibilities that our regions face.
Ms Mussared said an issue that continues to impact older South Australians no matter where they live is ageism.
"Like sexism and racism, ageism is not something that will simply go away or can be brushed under the carpet. We can't as a community - and a government - let systemic ageism continue to grow.
"Until it is given the recognition, focus and leadership it deserves, it will remain embedded in our everyday treatment of older people. This is not acceptable, particularly as our population ages," she said.
"A lack of housing for older people on low and fixed incomes also continues to cause major issues. Social and public housing is virtually unavailable in Adelaide and in our regions. Right now, there are 10,000 older South Australians experiencing housing stress - it's simply not good enough."
The seven key areas are:
- Ageing in Country SA - includes the commissioning of an Ageing in Country South Australia strategy and funding a Country Engagement Program
- Digital Inclusion - research and funding of innovative, evidence based, best practice programs that identify and support older people at risk of digital exclusion; and maintaining non-online systems to enable access to information, support and all government and government-funded services
- Ageism - tackling age discrimination through a targeted media and awareness campaign
- Employment - including a pilot project in regional SA to support upskilling, reskilling and workplace flexibility to create proactive employment opportunities, with a particular focus on older women.
- Housing - an increase of public and social housing by at least 100 homes per year; the introduction of age as a criterion of priority for housing disadvantaged older people; and the establishment of a specialised advocacy and housing service that assists vulnerable older people living in housing stress to secure ongoing accommodation.
- Health and Wellbeing - greater access to health services and programs such as Strength for Life, particularly for CALD, First Nation Elders and isolated and regional South Australians; improving health outcomes and measures to reduce ambulance ramping for older people; free ambulance travel for Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders; and improved access to oral health care services.
- Social Inclusion - includes increasing the reach of COTA SA's Rainbow Hub for LGBTI elders living outside metropolitan Adelaide; extension of transport concessions beyond off-peak times; a review of transport options in regional SA; and reinvestment in peer-to-peer road safety awareness and education initiatives.