The “Silver Tsunami”, term created by Suzanne Goldberg (2007) (cited by Poole, 2009 pg. 308) is used to describe the upcoming demographic increase in the population of the elderly. There are two major factors in examining this as an issue. The first is the decline in fertility since the 1950’s and the second is the increase life expectancy and population of the elderly (Poole, M, 2009). It is projected that in the next twenty years there will be significant consequences for Australians in many domains, including the need for skilled labour, employment, contributions, and housing (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012 (ABS). The domain I will touch on briefly is health and wellbeing.
The fertility decline started from the time of the white settlement in 1788 with households of over ten people. After the gold rush in 1850’s the household size decreased to around five persons and then slowly declined again after World War I until around 1946. From 1946 there was a significant jump in fertility. It was considered the “Baby Boomer” period (Krieken 2006, p. 100), which was due to post World War II family recovery as well as the arrival of immigrants of childbearing age. By 1961 fertility was at a record high. From that period of time the fertility rate started to decline again which was partly due to the introduction to contraception (deVaus, D, 2002). As cited by Robert van Krieken, Hugo (1992) quoted “The Australian decline in fertility after 1970 was one of the world’s most dramatic” (p.13). By 2002 the average household was 2.5. (van Krieken, as cited in Snooks 1994 pp 200-2). Statistical data adapted by Allan Borowski taken from the ABS in 2007 (p 30), suggests that by 2051 the population 65 years and over is likely to reach 26.1 per cent. By that time there will only be 2.4 people of working age supporting each person aged 65 and over, (down from 5 people in 2007)
Due to better living standards and medical advances in the western, developed countries the rise in age is now reaching eighty and ninety years plus (Poole, as cited in Kellehear, 2007). Sadly, most people in this specific age group develop chronic illnesses and disease, which require an already crowded, massive health and support system at huge costs. The rise in this age group is looking to double in the next twenty years (Poole, as cited in Kalache, 2005 pp. 30 - 46). Conversely, many people presently in their 60’s and 70’s are living healthier, quite active lives, and contribute to society in numerous ways (Poole, M, 2009).
The figures described by Allan Borowski, suggest future anxieties about the workers capacity to provide tax revenues to be able to endure a society of growing non-working members. Can the “public purse” (Borowski pg.30) afford Australia’s widespread government-funded support systems for the aged?
In Conclusion, we acknowledge a complex contemporary social issue that clearly identifies changes in the Australian elderly population. The rapid increase of the