Summary

The number of older Indigenous people (50 years and over) is growing, but they represent a relatively small proportion of the total Indigenous population (12%) compared with the share of 50+ year olds in the non-Indigenous population (31%)

Due to their poorer health status and higher levels of socioeconomic disadvantage, the health care and support needs of older Indigenous Australians differ from those of other Australians, and they use these services at both higher rates and younger ages.

In 2008, around 16% of older Indigenous Australians had severe core activity limitations meaning that they required help with self-care, mobility or communications. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of disease burden in this population group, followed by malignant neoplasms, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and nervous system and sense disorders.

Dementia is emerging as a problem for Indigenous people at comparatively young ages (under 75 years), probably due to the high rates of chronic disease and other risk factors they experience, but relatively few access government support programs, particularly in remote communities.

To cater for the specific health care and other support needs of older Indigenous Australians, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program provides places in rural and remote areas, complementing the packages available through other mainstream community and residential care programs.