FUTURE CQ: Owning the aging issue in Gladstone
THE Future CQ series continues today with a focus on our aging population and what Gladstone is doing well and what we can do better to address this growing issue.
Figures produced by The Demographics Group, which source information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Queensland Government, are projecting Central Queensland will see stronger growth in the late-retirement age cohort. CQ will experience a 51 per cent increase in people aged 70-79 in the next 10 years and a 72 per cent increase in people aged 85 and above during the same time frame.
The issue isn't a local one but The Demographics Group managing director Bernard Salt said managing an aging population started at a local level.
"Every community is going to have to manage this transition over the next 10 years or so and if aged care facilities are thin on the ground there needs to be support from local council and the state government need to be aware of it," Mr Salt said.
"This area is going to have a surge in 70-somethings and 80-somethings and we need a range of facilities now to manage that and a range of TAFE related allied health training facilities to ensure we have kids or people coming through that are trained in aged care management.
"The leverage point you have is this isn't a surprise. It's not like the State Government doesn't know this is happening because they produce projections by each local government area.
"The local council should have an aged care infrastructure strategy as part of their future planning... that should be part of their ongoing future vision for the community."
In July Gladstone Regional Council voted to offer a 50 per cent discount off charges for development applications other than individual residential developments.
It was a subject raised by Mayor Matt Burnett at last month's Future CQ event.
"For seniors we've introduced an incentive policy for developers to come in and build retirement villages and aged-care facilities," Cr Burnett said.
"We're prepared to take a hit on something our community needs, like aged care, retirement and education facilities.
"It's working - look at what just happened at Tannum recently and they've got bed licences from the Federal Government to go with it."
Mr Salt wasn't aware of the adopted policy but fully supported it after being informed of its existence.
"If there is a policy designed to encourage the private sector to respond to this opportunity I'd say it's great," Mr Salt said.
"You get the facility to actually address the issue, it generates jobs and the construction element behind it as well - I see it as a positive.
"It's not something a responsible community can ignore - every Australian life whether you're five or 95 years old is valuable and needs to be treated with respect and given the infrastructure, care and support required whether its a preschool or a nursing home."
Mr Salt said visions for the longer term must be adopted instead of policy makers working between election cycles.
"We tend to get bogged down in an election and then the next term of office - a three-year vision. We as a people need to think 10 years out into the future and that's what this project is about," he said.
"We need to lift the horizon and ask the obvious questions around employment, jobs, infrastructure and planning and to me that's a good exercise to do.
"I know Gladstone has modest growth expectations which is another issue but it's certainly something that needs to be done."
Mr Salt warned Gladstone not to fall in the trap of identifying a problem but leaving it up to someone else to fix.
"I want every Gladstonian and every Australian to think 'what can I do as an individual to help deliver on this vision?'- 'how can I make a contribution in this bigger-picture visioning of a bigger, stronger, better connected Gladstone?'," he said.
"To me that's what leadership is about."