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Profile: Australia (excerpt)

This continent’s care system requires fundamental reform to effectively meet the needs of older adults, their families, and their caregivers

By Kristina Kapaun, Wichita State University, United States

Country: Australia


Total population: 21,262,641 (July 2010 est.) [1]


Population over age 65: 13.5% (male 1,306,329/female 1,565,153) (2010 est.) [1]


Estimated life expectancy: Total population, age 81.63; age 79.25 for men and age 84.14 for women (2010 est.) [1]


Birth Rate: 12.47 births/1,000 population (2010 est.) [1]


Death Rate: 6.74 deaths/1,000 population (July 2010 est.) [1]


How are older-adult demographics changing? Most of Australia’s population is concentrated along the eastern seaboard and the southeastern corner of the continent. Like that of most developed countries, its population is ageing as a result of sustained low fertility and increasing life expectancy. This is resulting in proportionally fewer children (under 15 years of age) in the population. The median age (the age at which half the population is older and half is younger) of the Australian population has increased by 5.1 years over the last two decades, from 31.8 years in 1989 to 36.9 years in 2009. Between June 2008 and June 2009, the median age remained steady at 36.9 [3].


The number of people aged 65 years or older is projected to almost triple by 2051, from 2.8 million to 7.6 million, an increase from 13.2% to 22.3% of the total population [6].


Over the next several decades, population ageing is expected to have significant implications for Australia including health, labour force participation, housing, and demand for skilled labour (Productivity Commission 2005, Economic Implications of an Ageing Australia, Research Report, Canberra) [3].


Per capita total expenditure on health at average exchange rate (US$, 2005): 3181 [9]


How does the country address health care? Medicare Australia, formally the Health Insurance Commission, was established in 1974 to administer the universal health insurance scheme known as Medibank. The Health Insurance Commission was quickly required to change direction when a new government came into power in 1975, and by late 1978, the Health Insurance Commission’s sole function was to run the private health insurance fund, Medibank Private. Within a few years Medibank Private became the market leader in private health insurance throughout Australia. When the Medicare universal care system was introduced in 1983, the Health Insurance Commission won the right to administer the program, and by 1998, Medibank Private had separated from the Health Insurance Commission.


Ministry changes announced in 2005 saw changes to the Health Insurance Commission, and it moved to the Department of Human Services portfolio along with five other service delivery agencies. Later in 2005, the Health Insurance Commission was renamed Medicare Australia, becoming a statutory agency, rather than a statutory authority, and part of the Australian Public Service [2].


To read the entire article, go to Active Aging Today. If you’re not a subscriber, subscribe now.

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