The number of residential aged care places in Australia and the ratio of places to people aged 70 years and over both increased in 2003-04, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
The report, Residential Aged Care in Australia 2003-04: A statistical overview shows there were 156,580 residential aged care places at the end of the 2003-04 financial year, up from 151,181 places the previous year.
There were 84.2 residential places for each 1,000 people aged 70 years and over, compared to 82.8 places per 1,000 a year earlier.
In addition to residential places, 29,063 Community Aged Care Packages and 860 Extended Aged Care at Home places were also operational at the end of 2003-04.
Taking into account contributions from Community Aged Care Packages (15.6) and Extended Aged Care at Home (0.5), the total aged care provision ratio was 100.3 places and packages per 1,000 people aged 70 and over.
This met the Australian Government's target for 2003-04 of 100 places and packages per 1,000.
Ann Peut, Head of the AIHW's Ageing and Aged Care Unit said that the average size of residential care facilities was growing, sometimes as a result of amalgamations as well as achieving increased economies of scale.
'In 1998 20% of services had 61 places or more, but this rose to 28% in 2004. There were 2,932 mainstream residential aged care services operating at 30 June 2004.'
'The figures also suggest that as soon as new places are offered they are filled-with a 96% occupancy rate in mainstream services.'
The average age of residents, and their dependency levels also continued to rise.
'Around 51% of permanent residents were aged 85 and over at 30 June 2004, compared to 49% in 1999. This proportion has been moving up slowly but consistently every year', Ms Peut said.
Over the same period the proportion of permanent residents classified as 'high care' increased from 61% to 66%, while residents classified as 'low care' fell from 39% to 34%.
'Available residential care places are thus being used by a progressively more dependent group of people', Ms Peut said.