Social support can come in different forms such as:
- instrumental support (help with personal care, household chores, transport or finances)
- emotional support (offering empathy and affection)
- informational support (providing advice and guidance).
Social support is not a one-way relationship; it is built on the ties people have with other individuals, groups, and the broader community (Lin et al. 1979). In addition to receiving support from others, people often provide support to others.
Measures such as social participation and social engagement are commonly used to examine social support. These factors may influence the nature of the social support networks available to older people. Continuing engagement in social and community life is also an important factor in active ageing (WHO 2002).
This page looks at social participation, social engagement and isolation. Throughout this page, ‘older people’ refers to people aged 65 and over. Where this definition does not apply, the age group in focus is specified. The ‘Older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’ feature article defines older people as aged 50 and over. This definition does not apply to this page, with Indigenous Australians aged 50–64 not included in the information presented.
Unpaid informal care provision
Some older people are carers, providing informal assistance (help or supervision) to other people, such as those with disability or older people. The 2018 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC) estimated there were 647,000 older people (aged 65 and over) providing care. Older carers represented around 1 in 6 (17%) of the total older population and just over half (51%) of older carers had disability (ABS 2019a).
Of carers aged 75–84, 54% (105,000) were men and 45% (88,600) were women. Around 7 in 10 carers aged 85 and over were men (72%, 27,400) and 30% (11,300) were women (AIHW analysis of ABS 2019b) (Figure 5.1). Note this data has been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data and discrepancies may occur between sums of the component items and totals.