Thousands of older Australians are being forced to choose between buying groceries, medication or paying their rent, experts say, domain.com.au reports.
Leading academics and housing providers have warned that the homelessness crisis among the elderly is set to deepen unless more money is injected into affordable housing.
With the country’s older population forecast to double in coming decades, the authors of a new report launched by Senator Doug Cameron have called on policymakers to urgently address the problem.
At the last census, there were 18,625 homeless people aged over 55, but this is likely to be an underestimate given the complicated nature of counting those with no fixed address.
Meanwhile, the number of renters aged over 65 who are in housing stress, defined as paying more than 30 per cent of their income on rent, has jumped by 42 per cent in the past five years.
“This situation is only going to get worse,” warned Debbie Faulkner, the deputy director of the centre for housing, urban and regional planning at the University of Adelaide.
In some cases, rent chews up to 70 per cent of a household’s income, she said.
Brian Lipmann, the founder of a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to helping disadvantaged older Australians, said housing options for poor elderly people were non-existent.
It has been almost 30 years since he opened Wintringham Specialist Aged Care but Mr Lipmann said the situation was worse than ever.
“We now have 1900 people on our waiting list,” he said. “A lot of those people have never had anything to do with homelessness before.”
On any given night, Wintringham provides housing, care or outreach services to roughly 1800 people aged over 50 in Victoria.
Mr Lipmann called for bipartisan support for more public and community housing, included dedicated housing for older people.