People are growing older and are doing so at a far greater rate than ever before in the history of the world. All nations now face a considerable social and economic revolution as a result, and Australia cannot hope to be an exception, as most of us can confidently expect a lifespan of at least 90 years, with many thousands about to achieve their century.
In ages past, war and disease prevented most people from reaching old age, but, thankfully, this is not likely to happen on a massive scale ever again.
If we act now, we can ensure that we will turn ageing into a significant social and economic asset, not a liability, and the Blueprint for an Ageing Australia that we present to the nation today strives to do exactly this.
Let me briefly outline the key recommendations.
PRIME MINISTERIAL LEADERSHIP
The challenge of ageing is so great that the enormous task of turning it into a powerhouse for the nation must be the responsibility of no less a leader than the Prime Minister.
There must be a Minister for Ageing within his office who has cabinet status and implements the PM's ageing policies, co-ordinating action across all departments, as well as with State and Local Governments, community institutions, First Australians and culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
Older Australians are a rapidly growing economic force in the marketplace, but they are largely ignored by providers of goods and services who fail to observe that they have special needs that can be a huge source of sales income for them. One day soon, the ageing market will be THE market. By meeting their needs in innovative ways, the economy will be transformed.
Of special note is the opportunity to export ageing services to the world. Every nation has a huge ageing problem and few are currently equipped to face it. Australia has the expertise to provide the services and products that will take them through this demographic crisis. We also have the capital to invest in all the social infrastructure they will need.
Austrade must lead the campaign, as the very considerable export income we can earn from this will more than cover the losses we are sustaining as the result of the end of the mining boom and the collapse of the car industry.
Another huge opportunity is to create a business environment in which Seniors can become entrepreneurs if they plan to do so well before they reach the traditional retirement age. They have a unique scope to take-up totally new business and professional endeavours, for which they can acquire new skills to create a second career.
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