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Aged care sector reform should be prioritised to support the nation’s ageing population and increase in the number of elderly Australians requiring assistance, according to the Aged & Community Care Providers Association.

The national association for aged care providers issued the call on the back of the latest Census data, released earlier this week.

Figures showed the number of people aged 65 and over increased by more that 700,000 since the 2016 survey, bringing the total to 4.4 million older Australians. Overall, the number of older people needing assistance rose 49%, from 642,822 to 963,048. The number of people who require assistance in their day-to-day lives with self-care, mobility and communication increased across several age brackets for people over 65. There is also about 190,000 people living with dementia, the vast majority who are aged over 65.

Aged & Community Care Providers Association (ACCPA) Interim CEO Paul Sadler said the Census data serves as timely reminder to plan for the future and reform the aged care sector now.

He said ACCPA is working the new Labor government to look at ways to progress aged care reform, including a focus on making aged care a more attractive career. Strategies ACCPA plans to put forward include higher pay so that casual and part-time staff work more hours, ensuring aged care facilities are better staffed, improving working conditions with access to child care, and improved training and staff development.

“The Census shows the number of Australians aged 65 is the largest it has ever been,” Mr Sadler said.

“This should be a clear prompt for the government to re-evaluate its current plans for residential and at-home aged care services, and what this means for the sector’s future.”

A large growth in the number of older Australians who need assistance is accelerating the pressure on the aged care system as it implements Royal Commission recommendations and grapples with Covid outbreaks and a workforce crisis, Mr Sadler claimed.

“This growth in Australia’s older population and the assistance they need to access quality care shows why the Prime Minister was right to nominate fixing aged care as a key priority for Labor and must remain a national focus.

“Aged care reform that addresses the ongoing workforce and funding crises must continue to be on the table if we are to give quality care that supports this expansion of Australia’s older population.”