As the leader of aged care research by the Caring Futures Institute team at Flinders University, Professor Julie Ratcliffe knew that ignorance and indifference had long shaped young people’s opinions on aged care.
However, the team’s most recent report, triggered by the ongoing Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, signalled that a majority of Australians of all ages are prepared to do the unthinkable and pay more tax to ensure universal access to high-quality aged care services.
“When my 18 and 20-year-old children answered our survey, their answers reinforced a change in views and preferences about the quality of aged care and future funding,” says Professor Ratcliffe. “Previously, I’d seen a real lack of attention given to older people and aged care by younger people. Now a whole new conversation is happening.”
The closer Professor Ratcliffe looked at the survey data, the more apparent this became. Nearly 90% of people who participated in the research agreed that the government should provide higher funding for aged care services, with a majority believing it should be doubled. Almost 60% agreed there should be a reallocation of public expenditure to aged care.
More than half of current income taxpayers say they would be willing to pay an additional 1.4% income tax per year to ensure satisfactory quality aged care is delivered, and a further 1.7% per year to achieve high quality aged care.
It’s breakthrough research that can help steer the future of aged care in Australia – a task that the Royal Commission is determined to address – and reveals a decisive change in thinking from younger Australians. “Young people tend to only think about aged care as involving older people residing in nursing homes, yet a growing proportion of older people receive services in their own homes,” says Professor Ratcliffe. “However, there’s a shortage of provision, with quite a long waiting list of older people wanting to access home care packages. People are dying who are eligible to receive home care services that they never end up receiving. Most young Australians are not generally aware of this, or the need for more investment and greater transparency about how aged care funds are allocated. The survey helped to inform younger people about what is actually happening in aged care.”
As a consequence, more than 70% of survey respondents indicated that they would be willing to pay a larger co-contribution to receive the support they would need to remain living at home rather than entering a residential aged care facility.