Wheatbelt average age on rise

The average age of Wheatbelt residents is higher than the State average and is forecast to increase further over the next decade.
Camera IconThe average age of Wheatbelt residents is higher than the State average and is forecast to increase further over the next decade. Credit: Countryman

Over the past 105 years, information from the Census of Population and Housing has directed billions of dollars of taxpayers’ funds to essential infrastructure and services, helping shape every regional community in WA.

It has also been crucial to the lives of senior citizens and people requiring care across WA, with the data helping track their progress and informing programs designed to support their wellbeing.

The average age of the population in the Wheatbelt is higher than the State average and forecast to increase further over the next decade.

In projections prepared by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for the Department of Social Services in 2013, it was forecast that the number of Wheatbelt residents aged 70 and over will have increased by 80 per cent from 7537 in 2011 to 13,637 by 2026.

To help seniors’ live long and healthy lives, the Wheatbelt Development Commission has implemented the Creating Age Friendly Communities in Small Towns Project as part of a holistic solution to address aged-care issues across the region.

WDC chief executive Wendy Newman said the project, which was the recipient of $2.53 million through the Royalties for Regions regional grant scheme, has resulted in a fantastic range of age-friendly programs and initiatives.

“It has been wonderful to see projects that not only enable easier access to key services, but also allow older people to remain both physically and socially active in their communities,” she said.

The project aims to improve the level of age-friendly infrastructure, services and inclusion programs across 43 Wheatbelt local governments through:

An age-friendly community planning toolbox, including an audit tool to identify specific age-friendly infrastructure and service gaps, a prioritisation worksheet to rank projects to fill infrastructure gaps and a planning guide to assist local governments to develop an age-friendly community plan;

Funding in the form of a small grants scheme to act as a catalyst for the implementation of infrastructure projects identified in the age-friendly community planning process; and

An integrated transport plan that will identify innovative ways to provide improved transport options for the community.

Census State director David Waymouth said the benefits of the census to seniors and people who used care services were far-reaching.

“There are Commonwealth funding opportunities for 70-plus aged care initiative based on the size and growth of the population, so age-friendly community planning is a timely activity for all communities and local governments to get behind,” he said.

“Census statistics can help indigenous health organisations in assessing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, who we know experience issues relating to ageing earlier.

“The figures can also show the proportion of people living alone, which can help attract funding for informal home carers or support and outreach care services.”

The Creating Age Friendly Communities in Small Towns Project complements grants by the Department of Local Government and Communities that assist to fund the development of age-friendly community plans.

To date, 36 Wheatbelt local governments have been successful in obtaining these grants.

From late July to early August, the majority of households across WA will receive a letter from the ABS with a unique log-in code and instructions on how to complete the census online.

For those people who cannot complete the census online or wish to complete a paper form, details will be provided on the letter.

Information provided in the census is kept private and not shared, including with the police, housing, Australian Taxation Office or Centrelink.

For more information, visit census.abs.gov.au.

Follow the Census on Facebook and Twitter.

To view the Making Sense of the Census animated video series, visit the CensusAustralia YouTube channel.

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