The Daily Telegraph. May 2, 2008.
AUSTRALIA will experience an explosion in the number of people living to 100, with 78,000 centenarians forecast by 2055.
This would be a centenarian “army” the size of a big city, such as Port Macquarie on the North Coast. The keep-fit trend combined with a world-class health system, means Australia now ranks fourth in the global “life expectancy” table.
Only Japanese, Swiss and Icelanders live longer.
But the trend also highlights the effect that an ageing population will have on the national budget, a warning issued by ex-treasurer Peter Costello six years ago.
The last Census n 2006 revealed 2860 Australians over 100, with the oldest person believed to be a 112 year old woman in Victoria.
Minister for Ageing, Justine Elliot, hailed the “exciting news” of the looming centenarian army.
“People used to joke the 45 was the ‘new’ 30 – but today with record numbers reaching 100 – 100 is becoming the new 75,” she said.
Ms Elliot, 41, said the research also predicts another phenomenon – the “super centenarian”.
These are the people, often living healthy lives at home, over the age of 110.
The ageing population will dramatically increase budget costs over time, particularly health costs.
Research also anticipates the 110-year-old “super centenarian”.
Health department forecasts show the current numbers of Australians aged 65 and over – 2.7 million – will swell to 7.2 million by 2047.
This will comprise around 25 per cent of the entire population, compared to just 13 per cent today.
Eric Vallance, 101, of Padstow Heights, said it was a “jolly good thing” that people were living longer. “It’s just a pity other don’t last as long as me,” he said.
His personal care manager at the Beauty Point Retirement Resort, Christina Spowart, said staying active was the secret to his longevity.
“He’s played golf for the past 70 years. He also swims, plays snooker, darts and bingo and he drives a sports car. He is an incredible man,” she said.
The Howard Government began taking steps to soften the budgetary impact of an ageing population, including reining-in so ending under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
The Government is expected to do a lot more to cushion the fiscal impact. There will be increased emphasis on preventative health, encouraging regular exercise and pushing the danger of heavy drinking.
Aussie blokes have particularly benefited from changed in society over the past few decades.
Data from the Australian institute of Health and Welfare shows that smoking rates among men have dropped from more than 70 per cent in 1945 to just over 20 per cent in 2004.