Per Capita Shifts the Debate on Ageing and Longevity in Australia

October 21, 2014

Per Capita’s work in the area of ageing and longevity has shifted the debate in Australia so that this demographic change is being recognised for the opportunity it is.

This week the Assistant Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, Christopher Kent, has argued for a recognition of the opportunities inherent in ageing and longer-living society. At the highest levels of Australian public policy, there is a growing recognition that ageing does not have to be the challenge, the burden, or the disaster which it has been understood as.

In a speech to the Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) National Congress in Adelaide on Monday, Mr Kent noted that Australia has tended to regard ageing as a problem to be overcome, and that this view must be changed. He remarked, “conversations about ageing often focus on the challenges it poses. But it also provides us with numerous opportunities”

Per Capita’s Blueprint for Ageing, launched at the National Press Club last month, made the case that ageing and longevity can be harnessed to deliver a social and economic good to Australia. For example, the Blueprint called for the establishment of a Seniors’ Enterprise Institute, a business incubator for new commercial ventures founded by older Australians. The initiative will encourage innovation, lifelong learning, and foster local business activity and overseas trading opportunities.

Mr Kent’s comments on the aspect of business innovation are worth quoting at some length:

“It is also possible that longer life spans may make people more willing to take on risks at any given age. Why? Take the example of someone considering a new business venture. They might be more willing to do so knowing that they would have more productive years to take advantage of a successful business. Moreover, in the event of failure, they still have many productive years ahead to generate a decent income doing something else.”

Mr Kent also noted that ageing and longevity are long term demographic shifts which require more immediate policy intervention. This has been a point Per Capita has argued consistently since the launch of our first report on ageing and longevity, Still Kicking.

It is not a matter of deluding ourselves that these demographic changes are only a positive, or that their social and economic implications are without challenges. Rather, it is an argument that a reframed public policy approach produces tangible opportunities which are not possible when ageing and longevity are cast as a threat.

Australia is becoming alive to the prospects presented by ageing and longevity – Mr Kent’s speech exemplifies this. Per Capita will continue to make this case in the public debate.

We will also continue to design policies which allow Australia to avail itself of demographic opportunities through the recently-established Per Capita Longevity Forum.