Key findings from the Survey of Disability, Ageing & Carers (SDAC)
This publication presents information from the 2015 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC).
Australians (those aged 65 years and over), as well as their needs is becoming increasingly important. In 2015, there were an estimated 3.5 million older Australians, representing one in every seven people (15.1%). This proportion has increased from 14.3% in 2012 and 13.3% in 2009.
In this article, we’ve taken some key findings from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) release of the most recent Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC). We also look at the proportion of older Australians with a long-term health condition, Social participation numbers from those over 65 years and the population characteristics.
Older people (65 years and older)
The SDAC also collects information from older people (those aged 65 years and over) to determine how ageing impacts a person’s life and experiences. Like many other developed countries, Australia has an ageing population. There were around 3.5 million older Australians in 2015, representing one in every seven people or 15.1% of the population. This proportion has increased from 14.3% in 2012, making it increasingly important to understand the characteristics and needs of older Australians.
- Older Australians living in households were more active, with the proportion that participated in physical activities for exercise or recreation increasing from 44.5% in 2012 to 49.2% in 2015.
- The majority of older Australians were living in households (94.8%), while 5.2% or one in twenty lived in cared accommodation such as nursing homes.
- While the proportion of older Australians has increased, the prevalence of disability amongst them has decreased. In 2015, 50.7% of older people were living with disability, down from 52.7% in 2012.
- Two-thirds of older Australians (67.3%) that reported their income lived in a household with an equivalised gross household income that was in the lowest two quintiles. This proportion has decreased from 74.6% in 2012.
While the proportion of people in Australia aged 65 years and over continues to increase, the prevalence of disability amongst older people has decreased. Around half (50.7%) of older people had a disability in 2015, down from 52.7% in 2012. Of these older Australians living with disability, the proportion that reported a profound or severe limitation dropped from 38.5% in 2012 to 36.4% in 2015. The proportion with a moderate limitation remained stable between 2012 and 2015 (15.5% and 14.0%). In contrast, the proportion of older Australians with a mild limitation rose from 37.4% in 2012 to 39.7% in 2015. These levels of limitation are described in more detail in the Glossary.
In 2015, people aged 80 years and over represented almost three quarters (72.1%) of all residents in cared accommodation. Just 1.5% of people aged 65 to 79 years lived in cared accommodation. The vast majority (96.5%) of older residents in cared accommodation had some disability, with most (97.9% of those with disability) indicating that their disability was profound or severe.
Conceptual Framework: Older persons, by disability status and living arrangements, 2015
Information about carers is another important component of the SDAC. In the survey, a carer is defined as a person who provides any informal assistance, in terms of help or supervision, to older people (aged 65 years and over) and those with disability. Assistance must be ongoing, or likely to be ongoing, for at least six months. A primary carer is the person who provides the most informal assistance to a person with disability with one or more of the core activities of mobility, self-care and communication. In this survey, primary carer information was collected for people aged 15 years and over.
The information collected provides an insight into many different characteristics of carers and how caring impacts on their lives. In 2015, almost 2.7 million Australians were carers (11.6%), with 856,100 people (3.7%) aged 15 years and over identified as primary carers. These patterns were similar to those in 2009 and 2012.
- The average age of a primary carer was 55 years.
- Over one-third of primary carers (37.8%) were living with disability themselves.
- Females made up the majority of carers, representing 68.1% of primary carers and 55.5% of all carers.
- For people aged 15 to 64 years, the labour force participation rate for primary carers (56.3%) and other carers (77.2%) was lower than for non–carers (80.3%).
Long-term health conditions
The proportion of older Australians with a long-term health condition, that is, a disease or disorder that has lasted, or is likely to last, for six months or more, has remained relatively stable in recent years. Almost nine in ten (87.2%) older Australians reported that they had one or more long-term health conditions in 2015. This is similar to the 2012 rate of 86.6%.
In 2015, of those older Australians with one or more long-term health conditions, the most commonly reported main conditions were:
- arthritis and related disorders (16.0%)
- hypertension (9.2%)
- back problems (9.2%)
The above is consistent with the 2012 findings (16.3%, 10.6% and 9.4%, respectively).
The proportion of older Australians with a mental or behavioural disorder as their main condition was 6.5%, with 2.8% of all older people reporting Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease as their main long term health condition.
Many older Australians are active members of their communities with strong social connections. In 2015, almost all older Australians living in households had participated in one or more social activities at home (97.9%) or outside the home (93.6%) in the last 3 months. The majority of older people interacted with their family or friends through telephone calls (93.2%), being visited at home (90.7%) or visiting them (85.8%). Over three-quarters (76.8%) had participated in at least one cultural or physical activity away from home, in the 12 months prior to the survey.
Older Australians were more active in 2015. The proportion of older people living in households who participated in physical activities for exercise or recreation increased, from 44.5% in 2012 to 49.2% in 2015. Almost one-quarter (23.4%) of older men participated in sport in 2015, up from 21.3% in 2012. In contrast, 13.1% of older women participated in sport in 2015, no significant increase from 2012 (12.2%).
A considerable proportion of older people participated in a range of cultural activities in 2015. Almost half (47.8%) of older people living in households had attended a movie, concert, theatre or performing arts event in the 12 months before the survey, while almost a quarter (23.5%) had visited a museum or art gallery.
Older people make a considerable economic and social contribution to the community through unpaid work. In 2015, almost one in five (18.6%) older Australians living in households were actively involved in voluntary or community service activities outside the home in the previous three months.
– Chapter three of 60+Club’s eBook explores the benefits of staying social, as well as positive impacts of volunteering in more depth. Entitled ‘The Why’s Of Goodness‘, chapter three specifically discuses Why being social is good for your health and Why being generous after 60 is good for you.
Most older Australians (94.8%) were living in households in 2015, while one in twenty (5.2%) lived in cared accommodation such as nursing homes and aged care hostels. Over one-quarter (26.8%) of all older people lived alone.
There are differences in the distribution of older Australians (living in households) between the states and territories. In 2015, both Tasmania and South Australia had significantly higher proportions of older people as a percentage of their total population than other states (17.8% and 16.7%, respectively), while the Northern Territory had the smallest proportion of older people (7.6%).
Person’s aged 65 years and over – Proportion of total population, by State and Territory 2015
Footnote(s): (a) Living in households (b) Excludes very remote areas, which make up 22.9% of the total NT population
– ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2015. Read more
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