At the Cota National Policy Forum on “Gender and Ageing- equity and diversity in later life”, hosted by COTA (one of the ILC-Australia members) on the 2nd of July 2015 at Canberra, experts spoke on what gender equity implies for older Australians and the policies needed to achieve this.

The forum placed gender at the forefront of policy considerations for older people in recognition of the fact that – ‘gender affects later life participation in work, access to superannuation, housing for the elderly and their role as caregivers.’

The Keynote Speaker, Ms. Renee Leon, PSM, Secretary, Australian Government Department of Employment, spoke about the need to promote the ‘silver economy’ and also to ensure the health and wealth of the older persons.

Ageism, that is discrimination against the older persons due to their age, is a very common attitude even in Australia. It needs to be stressed that the Government has to play a key role in bringing about an attitudinal change to this. The government must assist mature job seekers and encourage flexibility in the work-place to accommodate the needs of the older workers was the general consensus.

Research by ILC-I Australia’s Julie Byles, Tazeen Majeed & Hal Kending , shows that older women have more opportunities for part-time work than older men do.

Further, it also finds that childhood, socio-economic factors, education & marital status affect the employment patterns of women, while for men, marital status & informal care are the impacting factors.

The Australian superannuation policy stipulates around forty years of full-time work-- such a mandate is disadvantageous for women employees, as caregiving, family needs met by women in their earlier period, lessen the number of years of work eventually put in by them.

Certain solutions to redress this situation were also discussed at the forum including superannuation credits for caregivers who take time out of work.

The gravity of another issue discussed at the forum was – Older Australians, especially older women who face poverty & homelessness despite Australia having the highest median income in the world. A primary reason for this was the gender pay gap which puts older women who do not own their own homes at particular risk.

Shortage of affordable housing especially for the older persons (that is, age-friendly homes) and the concept of ‘ageing in place’ were also discussed at the forum.

In the final session on ‘Gender & Health’, Julie Byles spoke on the need to dwell on not just longevity, but healthy life-expectancy which actually determines the quality of life that older persons experience. Research data from the Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health reveal that older women live longer than older men, but more often with physical limitations.

Discussions also centred around needs of the older men, ageing experiences and concerns of women and men of the LGBT community were also highlighted.

The final recommendations that emerged from this Forum were that policies and services for older people have to be comprehensive, holistic and cannot be gender-discriminatory. This was important as such holistic policies helped shape the lives of all older men and women to be lived with dignity and qualitatively.


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