A triple threat is looming in relation to ageing in Australia, one with particular implications for women. While access to secure and affordable housing can mean the difference between poverty and a decent life in older age, full homeownership in Australia is increasingly a privilege.
As we age, housing takes on particular significance. ‘Home’ may enshrine memories, represent family life and be a safe space through which to express changing identity. Older people are known to spend significantly more time in the home than younger people, and more time in their local communities accessing known services, and making a significant contribution to local economies. For women in their 50s and over, increased barriers to earning, and growing support needs, can mean access to secure housing becomes all the more important.
The number of single older women experiencing housing stress has grown exponentially over the past ten years. Many women have never owned property, others are forced into private rental as a result of family breakdown and sole parenting, or family violence – a leading cause of women’s homelessness. We see the impact of the investor paradigm of housing in the startling statistic that women over 55 are now the fastest growing cohort experiencing homelessness.
The ‘triple threat’ facing older women relates to housing insecurity, increasing care needs as they age and a tsunami of social isolation affecting older Australians. Unless we recalibrate some of the policy settings structuring both housing and aged care, gendered disadvantage in older age will become a significant social problem.
With these issues in the frame, Per Capita received funding from Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation to explore to what extent cooperative models in shared accommodation, sharing care and mutual/reciprocal interactions, might be utilised to support older women experiencing disadvantage.
This “thinkpiece” presents the results of our research and social innovation work to uncover new approaches to providing secure, appropriate housing options to women as they enter their retirement, and will inform our ongoing work to develop new policy settings to address the changing needs and demands of older Australians.