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Inside the Expanding Australian Aged Care Sector

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Written by

Managing Director, Infrastructure

Employing over 350,000 people, generating over $13 billion in direct economic contribution per year, and providing for over 1.3 million Australians at any one time, Australia’s aged care sector is both an economic powerhouse and a social necessity.

The industry is predicted to be a significant player well into the future, as Australia continues to transition to a services-led economy. In fact, according to a Deloitte Access Economics report from 2016, "the direct contribution of the sector is approaching that of other important Australian industries such as residential building construction.” 

Thankfully, the Australian Government has demonstrated their commitment to aged care, dedicating over $17 billion in funding from 2015-16. Furthermore, a reported 65% of aged care services are currently run by not-for-profit organisations, in both residential and in-home care settings. 

These are promising support indicators for the future of the sector in Australia, however aged care providers can’t rest on their laurels. The industry faces some significant challenges, namely the swelling volume of residents it can expect in the following decades. 

In this article, we look into how Australia’s aged care industry can rise to this challenge and safeguard itself in the years ahead. We also review the other forces at play in Australia’s ever-changing aged care landscape. 

Population Challenges Facing Australian Aged Care 

The projected impacts of Australia’s ageing population are well-publicised, and much of this discussion has centred around the aged care sector’s ability to effectively manage the forecasted growth in over 65s and 85s. 

Research by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare forecasts that the population of Australians aged 65 and over will more than double in the next 40 years. To meet this demand, the Aged Care Financing Authority (ACFA) estimates that around 76,000 new residential aged care facilities will be required within the next 10 years. 

A steadily increasing life expectancy and ageing baby boomer generation are some of the greatest forces influencing the sector today. And with over 80% of Australians aged over 85 currently receiving residential aged care, it’s easy to grasp the scope of new residents the sector will need to accommodate in the coming decades. 

Indicators of Industry Change

According to their 2017 ‘Funding and Financing of the Aged Care Sector’ report, there were 949 residential care providers operating 195,825 facilities, with ongoing consolidation being a defining characteristic of the residential aged care industry today. The providers that succeed into the future will be those that can stay abreast of how technological and design advancements can assist them in delivering exceptional care.

As the sector mobilises to meet population challenges, funding models are also being subjected to constant review. According to ACFA’s 2017 Funding report:

“Funding and financial reforms have strengthened the viability and sustainability of the sector. Some of the consumer-focused reforms are still in a critical phase with challenges remaining for consumers and providers.”

Financial reforms like new means testing structures and revised home care packages continue to work towards providing better quality, more affordable care for all elder Australians. 

Using Technology and Design to Improve Residential Care

The aged care sector may be facing considerable macroeconomic challenges, however, advancements in both technology and design are giving care providers more support than ever before. Technology innovations are alleviating laborious tasks, improving safety and ultimately delivering a better experience for residents and caregivers. A few of these innovations include: 

  • Advancements in healthcare technologies like assistive devices
  • Virtual reality devices in providing valuable brain stimuli
  • Bluetooth low energy devices and the internet of things in aged care
  • Passive tracking to improve resident monitoring

In conjunction with technological innovations, the physical design of facilities is improving resident care and preparing the sector for greater numbers in coming years. Facilities continue to encourage healthy social interaction, including lifestyle elements like golf courses and bowling greens, as well as more campus style common areas and dining options. To meet the population challenges these facilities face, it won’t only be more space that is the answer, but smarter space, which begins with intelligent design.

To learn more about our expertise in delivering the aged care facilities of the future, contact us today.

Author: Niamh O'Connor | Director, WA

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