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Today's older Australians live generally healthier and longer lives than previous generations. In the 1960s, life expectancy at birth was 74 years for girls, and 67 years for boys. The latest mortality data indicate that girls born in 2013 can expect to live to the age of 84, and boys to 80. Life expectancy is increasing both at birth and over the course of a person's life, as most Australians enjoy greater standards of living and better access to high-quality healthcare.
This also means that the proportion of older people—that is, people aged 65 and over—in the Australian population is increasing. The number of people aged 65 and over has more than tripled over fifty years, rising to 3.4 million in 2014. There has also been a ninefold increase in the number of people aged 85 and over, to 456,600 in 2014. Based on population projections by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there will be 9.6 million people aged 65 and over and 1.9 million people aged 85 and over by 2064.
While longer lives are a positive outcome for individuals, at the population level, increased lifespans and older age generally result in increased ill health. Many health conditions and associated impairments, such as arthritis, dementia, and hearing loss, become more common as people get older.
However, most older Australians consider themselves to be in good health. This enables people to enjoy a good quality of life for longer and to participate fully in the community. It also reduces the general demand for health and aged care services.
people (72%) aged 65 and over living in households in 2011–12 rated their health as excellent, very good or good according to the Australian Health Survey. This survey did not include older people living in institutions, such as residential aged care.
hospitalisations in 2013–14 (40%) were for people aged 65 and over, who account for 13% of Australia’s population.
of older Australians (53%) reported a disability in 2012, compared with almost 1 in 6 Australians (14%) aged 15–64. However, only 1 in 5 older Australians (20%) had a severe or profound core activity limitation (sometimes or always need assistance with at least one core activity—self-care, mobility or communication).
deaths (29%) in older Australians in 2013 were due to one of three underlying causes—coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular diseases (including stroke) or dementia and Alzheimer disease.
Australians aged 65 and over in 2014 (37%) were born overseas—14% in main English–speaking countries (the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, and South Africa) and 23% in non–English speaking countries.