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Older women facing homelessness on the rise

Discrimination Age Discrimination
Older woman in despair, holding face

As we approach International Women’s Day on March 8, the Age Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Kay Patterson, has renewed calls for policy makers and leaders to prioritise housing security for older Australian women.
 
Older women are the fastest growing cohort of homeless people, with a 31% increase between 2011 and 2016.
 
Dr Patterson says International Women’s Day is a chance to celebrate what has been achieved and contemplate what more needs to be done.
 
“Up to 300,000 older Australian women today are at risk of becoming homeless,” said Dr Patterson.
 
“Women accumulate less wealth across their lifetime—and the effect compounds over time. As a result, almost one in four women approaching retirement has no superannuation, despite living longer than men, and about a third are living in poverty in retirement,” she said.
 
Dr Patterson says there are a range of factors that contribute to older women’s risk of becoming homeless, including:

  • domestic violence
  • gender pay gap
  • being single
  • financial elder abuse or scams
  • job loss
  • illness

“The question is, can we house these women before they are sleeping in their cars or couch surfing? There needs to be a range of responses because social housing isn’t the only answer. Behind the data, there are women in different financial situations and with different needs and preferences. It’s up to all levels of government and the private and not-for-profit sectors to be creative and develop innovative models to increase the housing security of older women.”
 
More information can be found in the Commission’s 2019 paper, Older Women’s Risk of
Homelessness.