With an ageing population and growing levels of housing stress and homelessness across Australia, there is an urgent need to better understand the challenges faced by older people that may place them at risk of homelessness. It is also important to understand what more can be done to prevent and address homelessness and ensure older people are housed in a way that accords them the dignity and respect they deserve.
Older people face some of the same risks of homelessness as the rest of the population including lack of appropriate and affordable housing and lack of financial stability. However, these broad structural factors can impact on older people in different ways, due to changing housing needs and changing financial circumstances in the later stages of their lives. Other precursors to homelessness are experienced more frequently in older age, such as disability and mental illness.
The challenges faced by older people also vary depending on a range of intersecting issues including gender, socio-economic status, cultural background, sexuality, remoteness and caring responsibilities, and therefore solutions must be tailored to the needs of each individual.
For example, older women are more likely to be in lone person households, have lower retirement savings due to caring responsibilities, be out of the paid workforce and are more likely to have experienced domestic and family violence than older men. Strategies should be put in place now to boost economic security for women to prevent heightened risk of homelessness in later life.
Overcrowding in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities leads to increased rates of domestic and family violence and elder abuse and tends to exacerbate health issues. Housing solutions for older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people must be culturally appropriate and designed and delivered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations.