COTA SA calls on politicians not to forget older people in rural and regional SA

Media Release 13th February 2018

With around one third of older South Australians living in rural and regional areas, COTA SA is urging politicians to ensure their needs are not forgotten in the lead up to the March state election.

COTA SA conducted a series of conversations and surveys with older people across South Australia, including regional areas, and gathered from them their top asks. While many issues affect older South Australians across the state - for example isolation, digital inclusion and employment - others impact directly on older people in regional areas.

Access to specialised health services in rural communities was a big issue, with long travel times adding stress, expense and physical strain to an already unsettling experience for patients and their families.

Cost of living was a major concern for all older South Australians, and was particularly nominated by older people in regional and rural communities because of the high price of food, transport and fuel. In these communities people also nominated increases in council rates (in cases double digit per cent increases) as creating pressure.

Additionally, access to efficient and affordable transport worried those no longer driving their own car. In many regional and rural areas, there are few transport options, creating increasing feelings of isolation. Even with access to public and community transport people nominated long connection times, lack of direct routes and rising tariffs as factors making connecting with friends, retaining independence and keeping up with volunteer roles more difficult.

The survey also revealed a very strong sense of community in regional South Australia, with social connections and support playing a big role. However, with substantial job losses affecting some regions, insufficient local employment opportunities are forcing people needing to work to relocate and leave their family behind.

COTA SA Chief Executive Jane Mussared says despite more than half of the eligible voters being aged over 50, there seems to be limited understanding of what matters to them and what they are asking for.

"While South Australia is beginning to embrace our ageing population in principle, much remains to be done to enable older people to continue to be independent, self-sufficient and to have a real place and role in their communities," Ms Mussared said.

COTA SA's 2018 State Election Platform, which outlines the problem areas and proposed solutions, calls on politicians in the lead up to the State Election to make ageing a focus by acting on the recommendations.

"By far one of the most important issues among those we spoke to is the cost of living - not just rising power prices, but more generally the increase in co-payments, fees and needing to pay for things that used to be free. This all adds up and further strains already tight budgets," Ms Mussared said.

"In addition to this, there are other pressing issues relating to access to health services, housing, transport and employment, and we're continuing to see a gulf grow in the digital inclusion particularly among older generations.

"All these issues lead to isolation and the feeling that there is very limited opportunity for older people to contribute to the community and make a difference. COTA SA's Election Platform provides 25 recommendations on how to address these issues to ensure that older South Australians remain active and valued members of our community.

"Considering that over 50s make up half of South Australia's eligible voters it is important to consider their needs when it comes to election programs and policies," she said.

Some of the recommended measures include:

  • Support models for older people needing to travel to specialist health services
  • Funding of a one-stop housing support service for older people
  • Improved transport options for people without access to private transport, both within and between local communities and suburbs
  • Free WiFi and comprehensive digital literacy training
  • Work with businesses to encourage the provision of hard copy bills or statements free of charge for those without access to digital resources
  • Improvements to the age-friendliness of outdoor spaces, public buildings and public transport
  • Change the electricity concession from flat rate to percentage of electricity use in the household
  • Collaboration with other states and territories to establish a national framework on elder abuse

"The measures we have developed are in direct response to the concerns raised by the community, and need to be implemented to reduce financial pressures, isolation, elder abuse and age discrimination," Ms Mussared said.

"It's important to understand that the issues don't exist in isolation. Access to transport, for example, is not just a matter of convenience. It links people to others in the community, brings people to services and connects them to cultural and other events - but it needs to be affordable and easy to use," she said.

Access to COTA SA's 2018 Election Platform, which outlines all 25 recommendations in detail, can be accessed here: https://www.cotasa.org.au/sep.

COTA SA is an older people's movement run by, for and with older people. COTA SA represents the aspirations, interests and rights of 633,000 older South Australians.

Further information about COTA SA can be found at www.cotasa.org.au.

For all interview requests please contact:

Silvia Knoppien - silvia@communikate.net.au | 0467 043 173
Bec Tape - rtape@communikate.net.au | 0438 806 983

Download a copy of the media release