In 2016, there were more than 50,000 Indigenous Australians aged over 60. And by 2026, that figure is expected to reach nearly 90,000.

Australia’s original people – the Aboriginals – often struggle with health issues and receiving support as they age.

Aboriginal Australians have a high rates of severe physical disability, and as much as three times that of non-Aboriginal Australians – which is possibly due to higher rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes and kidney disease.

One study comparing Aboriginal Australians to non-Aboriginal Australians found that obesity and smoking rates were higher among Aboriginals, which are contributing factors or causes of serious health issues.

With such health issues, it would be expected that they would, proportionally, need more support in their later years.

And yet many elderly Aboriginals find that they do not receive the very basics.

Many Aborigines wish to stay in their community, near their friends and family and immersed in their own culture.  

And yet, these seniors with high-care needs have no choice but to leave their communities altogether and live in residential care in towns and cities.

Aged Care Services Available

In comparisons to metropolitan areas, there is a lack of aged care-specific services in remote parts of Australia.

Aboriginal people living on their own homelands have been found to be in better health that those who live in the city.

However, this means that many have to travel long distances in order to receive basic medical care when they need it.

And on top of that the clinician they may not even speak the patient’s language, have knowledge specific about the patient’s cultural needs or even aged or disability care.

In the past few years, there have been a number of government programs created in an attempt to help communities and aged care organisations to be more inclusive of Aboriginal people.

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program supports culturally appropriate aged care services for older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people close to home and community. These services include residential and home care.

Residential aged care provides a range of care options and accommodation for older people who are unable to continue living independently in their own homes.

Flexible care caters to the needs of older people in a residential or home care setting, who may require a different approach than that provided through mainstream residential and home care options.

And for aged care organisations, there is also the Remote and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Aged Care Service Development Assistance Panel (SDAP), which has been established to address the challenges in maintaining and delivering culturally appropriate and quality aged care services in remote and very remote areas.

Aged care services located in remote and very remote areas and/or services providing care to a significant number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people anywhere in Australia may be eligible for support from the SDAP.

SDAP services

Service categories:

  • Service Delivery – providing quality care, meeting organisational responsibilities, enhancing staff and management capability
  • Sector Support – assist one or more providers within a particular region to adopt changes to the aged care system
  • Financial Management – effective financial management
  • Project Management – developing, managing and delivering a project.

Aboriginal elders and elder people deserve the best possible support and care as they age. So it’s important for society and organisations to know all their options and to be prepared to take on caring for a unique Australian culture.

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