25.1% of Atherton Tablelands is aged over 60 years old and population age structure is a key consideration in a region’s development as it impacts planning, workforce participation, industry, investment, services such as healthcare, funding requirements, policy mechanisms and more.

The age structure of the Atherton Tablelands presents both opportunities and challenges and defines the types of services required by those living in the region’s communities.

In 2011 the median age of the Atherton Tablelands population was 43, up from 41.2 years in 2006 and projected to increase by 6 years to 47.2 years in 2031. Comparatively, the median age in Queensland was 34 in 2011 and is projected to be 40.2 years in 2031 (under the medium series).

The population in the Atherton Tablelands is clearly ageing and already attracts migrants in the 50-65 years age group, drawn by the tropical highland climate and rural and relaxed lifestyle.

Tablelands Retirement and Aged Facilities Action Group

A community-based group, formed in July 2009, consisting of representatives of three local seniors’ associations as well as representatives of Tablelands Regional Council, Tablelands Futures Corporation and Advance Cairns. The group was formed in direct response to community concern and a call for more retirement accommodation and aged care facilities on the Atherton Tablelands.

In 2010, the group conducted community forums and a questionnaire survey to determine the demand for residential accommodation for the aging population on the Atherton Tablelands . This built on works completed by Tablelands Regional Council in 2009 documented as “Aged Care in the Tablelands Region: Aged Accommodation and Support Services”.

Both the discussion paper and survey results demonstrate evidence of significant demand and a detailed database is available which highlights explicit demand based on both locations and accommodation preference.

Opportunities

There is a major gap between the supply and demand for retirement oriented accommodation on the Atherton Tablelands which represents both an opportunity for the region as well as a challenge.

Unless steps are taken now to address this situation, it will become more acute as the population of the Atherton Tablelands aged over 65 years expands. It is forecast that there will be over 4000 more people aged over 65 years in 2016 than in 2006.

Immediate, strategic action is required to fulfil the changing accommodation needs of the aging population on the Atherton Tablelands and, as well as fulfilling local demand, there is also the potential to satisfy a wider demand from outside the region.

Community consultation indicates that any development of retirement specific accommodation must go hand-in-hand with provision of an adequate level of residential aged care facilities. Whilst there are currently four excellent residential aged care facilities already on the Atherton Tablelands, forecasts of the growth in numbers of those potentially requiring aged care over the next five to ten years show that a substantial investment in more aged care beds is required.

For more information, please refer to Our Economy, Our Future 2013 report.