Can an ageing population be the key to economic growth?
An ageing population has often been viewed as a challenge for small towns. But Orbost in regional Victoria is proving that an older population can actually be a boost for the local area.
This idea came from community engagement and research the East Gippsland Shire Council undertook to develop the Orbost 2020 plan.
The plan identified that Orbost has a number of competitive advantages that makes it a perfect place for older Australians. Advantages such as access to health services, environmental amenities, affordability, and an already active older population.
As Australia’s population continues to age, there will be no shortage of older Australians. The trick to attracting them will be to recognise and meet the different needs and wants of this diverse group. Something Orbost is working hard to better understand.
Orbost is learning from the experiences of others by actively engaging with case studies of similar approaches. For example, since the 1990s, rural towns in parts of America actively pursued the ‘retiree market’ to help stimulate their local economy and attract new people to the area. Orbost is looking at what contributed to their success and what they can incorporate into their own strategies.
Working to attract and retain older people to Orbost has a number of advantages – including job creation.
Economic modelling suggests that for every 50 new residents over the age of 65 years that move to Orbost, 6.8 full-time equivalent positions will be created. Considering the additional services 50 new people will require (for example personal services such as health care and retail), 6.8 positions could be a modest estimate.
Orbost has identified a number of priority areas to help them to enhance their current advantages. These are; lifestyle and recreation activities, housing, transport and mobility, and marketing.
The Council want their transition to an age-friendly city to be a community effort. Having already achieve broad community engagement, effort is now being directed towards engaging the various community stakeholders that are working in relevant areas. The Council are actively looking for opportunities where different groups can work together and support each other.
Most towns are beginning to worry about the pressures of an ageing population. Orbost, however, has decided to see ageing as an opportunity. They have made the decision to deliberately engage with their older residents and make the most of their competitive advantages.
Where possible, working with the assets you have and the trends your community is experiencing will likely be better for your success in the long run.
Could this approach work in your community? For more information see the Orbost Age Friendly Town Scoping Paper