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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 04 Hansard (Wednesday, 9 April 2008) . . Page.. 1225 ..

that can be done through the fire watch program so that, for instance, we do not have elderly people unable to leave their houses because no-one knows that they are in their houses. I will not expand on that—I am running out of time—but it is a really important area. It would apply to people who cannot even push their rubbish bin out and do not know how to ask for help. I have met people like that. They are out there.

Another very concerning thing—it indicates the financial challenges for many other people—is the couch surfing that is now occurring amongst our elderly people. Couch surfing sounds like fun, doesn’t it? But what if it means that you have not got a permanent place to live and that you are relying on friends or, more particularly, family and you are at their mercy? No-one is happy: the family is not really keen about it and the elderly person is not keen about it because they lose their power by having to stay in other people’s houses. COTA has indicated that this is a growing problem in our community, due to the cost of accommodation. They are not people who are going to tell us that they are homeless but they are there. Thank goodness COTA is there to represent them.

Finally, I want to mention recent discussions in our community about voluntary euthanasia. I have had concerns expressed both ways—from groups of people concerned about it being introduced and from people begging for it to be introduced. Again, they are at that end of the spectrum where they really fear the loss of control over that end of their life.

We have to take these issues on for people who worked their lives for us—the end of the working family process. They are no less valuable because they are no longer part of a working family.

MS MacDONALD (Brindabella) (4.25): I commend Mr Gentleman for raising this important issue of the need to develop comprehensive policies for older Canberrans, particularly with the spotlight on this important and valued element of our community during Seniors Week.

The current ACT population profile is younger than the national average. However, population growth in the ACT in recent times has been slower than that at the national level, while at the same time the rate of ageing has been faster. In 2005, the median age of the ACT population was 34.5 years. Since 1985, this represents an increase in the median age of 6.4 years. Nationally, the increase in median age was 5.9 years.

Over the last three decades, the ACT has also experienced a steady decline in the proportion of the population aged under 15 years. At the other end of the spectrum, the ACT has experienced a steady increase in the proportion of those people aged 65 years and over. Since 1995, the number of children aged under 15 years has increased by eight per cent. However, the number of those aged 65 years and over has increased by 45.5 per cent and the number of those people aged 85 years or older has more than doubled. These are stark figures. Such a change in the profile of the ACT population has a range of policy implications for the ACT as well as the nation.

Areas of impact for the ACT include rate of economic growth, revenue collection, health services, housing types and services, aged care accommodation, carer support

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