Turning Grey into Gold

In earlier editions I mentioned that I had accepted an invitation from Wayne Swan to chair a Federal Government Panel on the Economic Potential of Senior Australians. The Treasurer initiated this as a long-term planning measure to look at the impact that the rapid ageing of the population will have on the economy, and determine whether this can be turned into a positive rather than a negative.

I was joined on the Panel by former Deputy Prime Minister, Brian Howe, and Gill Leewin, Professor of Gerontology at Curtin University, with Vicki Wilkinson from Treasury as Head of our Secretariat.

Commencing last April, we held public hearings in every capital city, as well as Alice Springs and Armidale, finishing with meetings at Parliament House in Canberra with representatives from all political Parties and the Independents.

We were given considerable help by Minister for Ageing, Mark Butler, in organising the co-operation of government departments and in opening doors to important contacts around the nation.

We presented our report entitled Turning Grey Into Gold to Wayne Swan at a Monash University Forum in Melbourne on December 15, and it has now gone to Cabinet for consideration.

It contains 36 recommendations and, as indicated by the title, we believe that the ageing of Australians can be turned into an economic and social asset if long term planning and implementation of policies commences right now.

If you ask me what, in my personal view, are the key issues out of the 36, I will say, unhesitatingly, housing, mature age employment, retirement incomes, technology, age discrimination, dementia, volunteering and philanthropy, as well as the cost and efficiency of health and caring services.

Fortunately, Australia is better able to handle all aspects of ageing than most nations. Those that are the least prepared are USA, China, Japan and Spain.

If you would like to read the report, just go to the Treasury website and type in EPSA. If you would like a copy posted to you, please write to Vicki Wilkinson, EPSA Secretariat, The Treasury, Langton Crescent, Parkes. ACT. 2600.

Incidentally, there will be more than 50,000 Australians in 2050 who will be 100 years of age, and a significant number of those will be 110.

May I express the fervent hope that you are one of them?