Senior couple enjoying themselves in winter forest

An Ageing Population

An important consideration will be the age demographics of society in future years. It has been forecast that those aged 65 years and over would account for 14% of Australia’s population in 2011 and would increase to 20% of the population in 2030[1], which potentially will see an increase in the number of persons with a disability.

This is comparative to international population projections prepared by the United Nations which predict the number of people over 65 is set to double within just 25 years.  Research has also found that between the years of 1980 and 2010 the number of people aged over 65 years per 100 adults, aged between 25 to 64, had been consistent at 16 people per 100, this is expected to increase to 26 people per 100 by 2035.

The number of people aged 85 years and over in Australia is projected to increase rapidly, going from 344,000 in 2007 to 1.7 million in 2056. Given these recent trends, it is also fair to assume that in the future people will be working longer.

A recent analysis of 43 countries by researchers from Harvard University found that between 1965 and 2005 the average legal retirement age increased by less than six months, but in contrast life expectancy increased by nine years, with many European countries now linking the legal retirement age to life expectancy data.[2]

Similarly, closer to home the Australian Government attempted to introduce legislation in 2014 to require people to remain working until 70 years of age before eligibility for the age pension.[3]

The elderly often experience diminished visual acuity, depth perception, reduced hearing, loss of the sense of smell, as well as a higher prevalence of people with mobility impairment. The likelihood of people experiencing a severe disability increases with age. They will also be prone to dementia and other age-related difficulties such as Alzheimer’s disease, impaired memory, and cognitive difficulties giving this age group higher risk occupancy characteristics.[4] [5] The Centre for Clinical Research Excellence Aphasia Rehabilitation reported that in 2012, 420 000 people or 1.77 per cent of the Australian population were living with the effects of stroke.[6]

It is clear that more consideration will need to be given to the needs of this ageing workforce, with a higher prevalence of people with sensory and mobility impairment and the likelihood of people experiencing a significant disability increases with age.

[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012, Year Book Australia, Population Size and Growth,, viewed 30 August 2015

[2] The Economist 2014, Age Invaders,, , viewed 30 August 2015

[3] The Sydney Morning Herald 2014, Retirement age rise to 70 by 2035, Joe Hockey announces,, viewed 30 August 2015

[4] United States Fire Administration 1999, FEMA, FA-203/December 1999 Fire Risks for the Older Adult,, viewed 31 August 2015

[5] Simkins TE, 2005, Study on High-rise Evacuation of Elderly Residents during Fire Alarms, p.7,, viewed 31 August 2015

[6] Parliament of Australia 2014, Senate Report, Prevalence of different types of speech, language and communication disorders and speech pathology services in Australia, p.29

Buildings need exit and emergency signs to identify parts of the accessible means of egress. An Accessible Exit Sign Project Initiative.

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