The Australian population is ageing at an unprecedented rate. There are increasing proportions of older people who will need support, and this is coupled with a greatly reduced population of working age who could possibly take care of them. Statistical studies show that in 2006, the proportion of people aged 65 and older in the Australian population was 13.2% – a significant increase compared to the rate of less than 10% just 15 years ago. The future growth of the aged population will clearly require considerable thought and planned action.
Projections made by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) indicate that the population aged 65 years and older may reach a proportion of 19–20% in 2021 and 27–30% by the year 2051. Simultaneously, the ratio of those of workforce age (15–64) to old age (65 and older) is expected to fall significantly – from over 5 : 1 in 2002 to 3.4 : 1 in 2021, and 2.2 : 1 in 2051.
By the end of this decade, it is estimated that there will be a shortage of over one lakh aged care workers in Australia, if not more. Studies further show that by the middle of this century we will in fact need four times more aged care workers than at present- a phenomenal number! There are two main reasons for this- one is the increase in longevity of the population due to better medical facilities and health care. The second reason is the increase in the number of working women and nuclear families, leading to more aged people being left alone and without family help. Many young people have migrated to other cities or other countries, again leaving their aged parents behind.
It is also estimated that forty-six percent of aged care workers are themselves presently over the age of 45 and will be retiring shortly. While talks are on to increase the upper age limit for retirement of aged care workers, this issue is yet to be resolved. All these factors put together have contributed to the emerging acute shortage of aged care workers faced in the country today.
So if you are a healthcare professional and if you have decided that the aged care sector is where you wish to make a career, this means that undoubtedly now is the right time to start! Where do you begin? This sector is one where you could possibly work without having any formal qualification, however nowadays aged care workers are often required to have some basic entry level qualifications such as the Certificate III in Individual Support. This course content is structured to prepare you for a career in the care of the aged, or the care of disabled people.
Today, not only has there been an increase in the number of older people, but there is also an increasing incidence in the number of age-related disabilities such as dementia. Some specialized skills may be necessary for the care of these elders. Critically ill aged patients will need palliative care and comforting. There are Professional Development courses available which you could take to gain a greater understanding in these fields.
Employment opportunities are available in a variety of settings. You can find employment working in a community centre for the elderly, or you can choose to work in a private home or an aged care facility. Many older people prefer not to leave the comfort of their own homes, especially when they require only minimal assistance and are still able to look after themselves most of the time.
Aged care work gives job satisfaction to many, as the work typically has flexible timings and may not be too stressful or demanding. What is needed is a warm and compassionate nature, coupled with a lot of patience and sincerity, and you will get far in this field!
“Immigration and the aged care workforce in Australia: Meeting the deficit”
Michael D Fine and Annette Mitchell, Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia