Australia must protect its ageing population and foster solidarity among all generations, Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay from the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council said today.
Speaking at the launch of the Australian Catholic Bishops 2016-2017 Social Justice Statement, entitled A Place at the Table: Social justice in an ageing society, the bishop called for compassion for the nation’s ageing population.
“Australia must protect older people who are most vulnerable to hardship and who are at risk of feeling they are a burden on society.’
The statement highlights the significant contribution that older people continue to make to the life of the community.
The number of Australians aged 65 and over will more than double from 3.6 million today to 8.9 million by the middle of the century. Around 75 per cent of men and 85 per cent of women are reaching retirement in good health can expect to live a further 20 years.
There is a risk, however, that a society ill-prepared for demographic change may assess these trends as an economic threat, he said, citing the divisive label of ‘productive workers’ versus ‘burdensome retirees’.
The community must ensure that both the costs and the benefits of an ageing population are shared equitably, he said.
Where policies encourage longer working lives, he called on Australians to ensure that vulnerable groups share the benefits of employment and are protected from poverty in their later years.
Where aged-care sectors are being opened to market competition, those with limited means must receive dignified and adequate care, he said.
The statement highlights that particularly vulnerable people can be exposed to loneliness, ageism and elder abuse.
The bishops challenged the “throwaway culture” that has cast older people as being burdensome or even dispensable.
Affirming the sanctity of life, they called for a culture of compassionate care that values and protects people in their final years.
The bishops prompted the community to foster solidarity among the generations and ensure older people have a rightful place at the table.
Download the 2016-2017 Social Justice Statement from the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council: socialjustice.catholic.org.au