NATIONAL Seniors Australia wants the new WA Labor government to make it easier for older people to find jobs and pay gas bills.
NSA chief advocate Ian Henschke says 26 per cent of the state’s workforce is aged 50 or over and more help is needed to keep their skills up-to-date.
“National Seniors would like to see the government commit to a trial of a dedicated program for people aged 50 and over to help them learn more skills,” he says.
“Employers often hire younger people in preference to older, more experienced workers who are seen as averse to learning new skills and technology.
“But that is a stereotype and workers aged 50 and over make up more than a quarter of the state’s workforce.”
“Setting up a seniors’ advisory committee, reporting to the minister for seniors, would also ensure that the needs of older people would be catered to in a stand-alone portfolio.”
With utility charges rising, many retirees are struggling to make ends meet, but Mr Henschke says the current energy assistance payment only applies to electricity: “It would help vulnerable older people pay their energy bills if the EAP was extended to gas as well as electricity accounts.”
The not-for-profit lobby group also wants the WA government to help seniors maintain social connections, to combat depression and social isolation.
“That is where the government should lead the way with initiatives that encourage positive attitudes towards ageing and behavioural changes to tackle the incidence of elder abuse,” he says.
Newly-appointed seniors and ageing minister Mick Murray is still coming to grips with his portfolio, but told the Voice he is looking at fast-tracking aged care facilities and Medihotels.
“There are now more pensioners in this state than under 16-year-olds and the number of people aged over 85 is set to double in the next 20 years,” Mr Murray says.
“Currently one in seven Western Australians is aged over 65. By 2060, this will increase to one in four people, leading to increased health service demand.
“The McGowan Government will fast track the establishment of much-needed additional aged care facilities. There are currently 3500 Commonwealth aged care bed licences not being utilised in Western Australia.”
“The McGowan government will develop Australia’s first Medihotels,” he says.
“This approach will improve the treatment experience for many seniors by allowing them to leave hospital faster by moving into a Medihotel before returning home.
“Medihotels will also help our seniors waiting for elective surgery by freeing up more hospital beds, reducing pressure on the health system and allowing health professionals to allocate more time to individual patients.
“It is early days, but I am looking forward to gaining a greater understanding of the issues facing our seniors and looking at where the state government can assist.”