National Seniors Australia has welcomed the weekend announcement of bi-partisan support for incentives for older Australians to downsize their homes, but says there is a missed opportunity to strengthen the policy to allow older people to stay out of residential care.
The new measures will exempt the proceeds from the sale of the family home from the pension assets test for two years and lower the eligibility age to those 55 years old and over.
However, National Seniors says there is an additional step required to optimise the policy for older Australians.
National Seniors Chief Advocate, Ian Henschke says even before the election, National Seniors called for a life changing policy to allow older Australians to downsize into the right kind of home for their final years as a way of staying out of costly residential aged care.
“We submitted a policy which would also allow recipients of home care packages the option of downsizing to a smaller, age friendly home by exempting excess sale proceeds from the pension assets test indefinitely, not just for a few years,” he says.
“We suggested restricting eligibility to people who were aged 80 and over, were eligible for a Home Care Package and had owned their home for more than 10 years.”
He pointed to research which consistently shows older Australians want to stay in their own homes.
“A recent survey found 92% of Australians want to remain and be cared for in their own home as they age.”
National Seniors says its policy has several benefits including:
Reducing the risk of prematurely entering residential care.
Reducing the overall cost of care to government and the individual.
Removing the financial disincentive to downsizing.
Increasing the use of the superannuation downsizing scheme.
Stimulating demand for seniors friendly, accessible housing.
Freeing up housing stock, taking pressure off the housing market.
Boosting spending, creating jobs and economic development.
Mr Henschke says the downsizing policy will only work if it serves to increase the supply of housing, so that all Australians will benefit.
“We know there is an untapped supply of larger homes more suitable for younger families than older Australians, many who struggle with the physical demands of the upkeep required to maintain a larger home,” he said.
To read the election policy submission on housing by National Seniors click here: