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by Ian Day, Chief Executive Officer Council on the Ageing (NSW) Inc.

More than one in every three people in NSW is aged over 50. As such, this group is highly significant in electoral, employment and market terms, but this impact is often not understood and in some cases not even considered.

COTA NSW’s role, above all else, is to counter this. In advocating on behalf of people over 50, we are continually emphasising that what is good for this population is – typically – good for the population at large. To illustrate: when businesses fail to attract or retain older employees, they lose skills and knowledge. However, they also lose significant market share when they fail to adequately serve older customers (something our latest COTA NSW Survey tells us occurs frequently), and this is bad news for the economy. Likewise, governments and policy makers who see older voters in terms of their ‘cost’ to the community are failing to recognise the potential of engaging the older community. A clearer-eyed view of the demography of NSW would see older people perceived in terms of the economic opportunity they represent when policies and initiatives are developed that actually recognise their needs and desires. We also note that the politicians who fail to address older voters’ priorities are doing themselves a disservice. Older people are swinging voters, and elected representatives would do well to remember the age profile of those they represent.

This perception of older people’s situation in NSW is not conjecture. On the contrary, COTA NSW constantly engages with people aged over 50 to understand the issues that are important to them as they age. Our interaction with them tells us they are increasingly independent in their outlook. They are aware, connected, informed and demanding, particularly when it comes to the recognition of their rights. They are active contributors to their community and involved with community organisations. Regardless of age, more than 80% rate their well-being as good, very good or excellent. They are not waiting for services. They are looking to their futures.

Our advocacy, policy recommendations, services and new opportunities stem directly from the knowledge we have of our constituents. Over the past year we have contributed on many issues important to and for older people, including Elder Abuse, Wills and Powers of Attorney, Enduring Guardianships and Advance Care Directives, Palliative Care, Cyber Security, Active Ageing fitness initiatives, Grandparent Carers, Sprinklers in Residential Aged Care Facilities, Energy Affordability, Retirement Villages, Housing Affordability, Planning for Age Friendly Communities, Mental Health and Aged Care reform.

Our research consistently suggests that four major factors affect an individual’s view of their level of well-being: their health and fitness; their state of mind – independence and confidence; their connection with friends, family and community and their feeling of financial and housing security. These themes are not uniquely age-related but they are critical when it comes to the decisions undertaken by older people. We believe that much more needs to be done to give rise to a community where all four of these factors are in place.

We also believe that in all aspects of our society older people have an absolute right to be included rather than excluded – whether it is purchasing goods and services, getting around the built environment, having access to health and support services, engaging with the wider community, accessing appropriate housing, feeling safe in their daily lives and making their own decisions.

I wish to acknowledge and thank U3A for your support and contribution to the work of COTA NSW. I look forward to the continuing exchange of ideas and information that has marked our relationship over recent years.

COTA Fact Sheets

COTA NSW has put together over 80 Fact Sheets with concise and accurate information on a wide range of important issues – See more at: click on ‘Publication’ then click on ‘Fact Sheets’.