Five essential tips for helping older tenants

Most landlords or agents have probably not thought much about the importance of detecting the…

Most landlords or agents have probably not thought much about the importance of detecting the early signs of dementia in their tenants, writes Saviour Buhgiar.

Saviour Buhagiar

And I imagine many would not have considered how high temperatures inside a home can lead to cardiovascular mortality, or how low lighting can increase the risk of falls.

But the fact is the amount of people over 65 who are renting is expected to double in the next 10 years and the whole housing sector has major adjustments to make.

A safe, stable and affordable home is one of the most important factors in our health and happiness as we age. People overwhelmingly want to stay in their communities and retain their independence.

There are benefits for all of us in this approach – staying in your community improves mental and physical health and, it’s also more cost effective than residential aged care, or hospital.

Private landlords and providers of social and affordable housing have an important part to play by thinking more about the wellbeing of their older tenants.

So together with Community Housing Industry Australia (CHIA) NSW , we’ve developed a toolkit to help.  Here’s five top takeaways.

  • Around 38 per cent of people aged between 65-69 have a disability – increasing to 80 per cent for those over 85. Easy modifications such as hand rails in the shower or lever style taps can greatly improve safety and help build confidence and independence.
  • The single greatest cause of disability in Australians over 65 is dementia. Please watch out for early warning signs including changes in mood and personality or confusion, language problems or poor judgement.
  • There’s a duty of care to watch for elder abuse, which is experienced by around 2-6 per cent of older Australians. This can be financial, sexual, psychological or physical abuse by someone close to us. The signs can include everything from physical neglect to being forced to change a will to less obvious things such as being denied access to a computer.
  • Loneliness increases our risk of mortality by 26 per ent and has the same effect on our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. There are numerous, complex risk factors that can intersect to the point where somebody isn’t able to even access basic needs or care. A good chat is the first step to helping put someone on a path to accessing social programs or feeling safer to venture out.
  • Discrimination is a real issue in the rental market. Older people from diverse backgrounds or Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders face racism and other barriers to secure housing and other services. We all have a duty to educate ourselves about these challenges and ensure we communicate effectively and don’t perpetuate stereotypes.

Of course, governments and housing providers need to play their part too. Private rents are unaffordable and there is a significant shortfall in public housing. More public housing should be a focus of the COVID recovery and would provide a multitude of economic benefits.

But our elders also need assistance in find the right support. The current system is confusing and often difficult to access. A specialist seniors housing support service would not only help people stay in their own homes longer, but also reduce the amount of older people being forced into homelessness.

*Saviour Buhagiar is director of ageing at Uniting NSW ACT.

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Tags: accomodation, CHIA, community-housing-institute-of-australia, dementia, saviour-buhagiar, uniting,

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