Page 1034 - Week 03 - Thursday, 23 March 2017

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Seniors Week

MR MILLIGAN (Yerrabi) (5.13): I want to take a moment to speak about the fact that this week Seniors Week occurred in Canberra, and to acknowledge that we have Ewan Brown, President of COTA ACT, here today.

The importance of Seniors Week is the recognition of the contribution seniors make to the ACT scene, one which cannot be underestimated. It is about celebrating older people and their continuing contribution to family, friends, workplaces and communities and across generations.

The truth is that Canberra is facing a population growing older. Figures released in the past couple of weeks reveal that the ACT population is projected to grow by six per cent in the next four years, with the number of people aged 65 to 84 increasing by 16 per cent, whilst the population of 85 years and over is projected to increase by one per cent. Let us put that into perspective. The proportion of people aged 65 years and over is projected to increase by around 7,450 people, reaching a total of about 56,500 in 2020. This will be over 13 per cent of the expected population of 421,840 residents.

Let me dispel the view, however, that seniors are a burden on our society because they are assumed to be high-maintenance residents. Yes, health issues are important to seniors, but they face disproportionate blame for rising healthcare costs. People are living longer, and thus need to access more health services, but a significant component of increasing healthcare costs is improvements in technology and the improved quality of care offered to all residents.

Moreover, a significant number, particularly here in the ACT, are self-funded retirees with no claims on the public purse. It is just the opposite, since they are active and considerable consumers, indulging in a lot of discretionary expenditure to the benefit of the ACT economy.

Too much focus is placed on the cost to support seniors rather than considering the economic value of their contributions to our society. Seniors make contributions across a range of areas. A large number have valuable qualifications and experience, which are offered free of charge to the benefit of the community through extensive volunteering involvements. Many organisations could not function as effectively as they do now without this support.

Many older residents are also involved in caring responsibilities. These include caring for their parents or spouses, caring for their children with disabilities or economic living problems, or taking on grandparent duties so their offspring can participate to a greater degree in the economy. These contributions are seriously undervalued in Canberra.

There are merits in portraying Canberra as an age-friendly city, as more seniors can be attracted to stay in or move to Canberra, thus extending this hugely valuable knowledge and experience base. Age-friendly city developments generally affect the

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