Social workers want checks on elderly neighbours home alone

Article by Natasha Bita / /
June 23, 2013 /
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“KIDULTS” who hog the family home are leaving a generation of grandparents neglected – and social workers are warning families to take better care of the elderly.

Meals on Wheels national board member [and NSW chief executive] Les MacDonald said volunteers were coming across more old people who had collapsed in their homes, with no one else to check on them.

“It’s not all that uncommon to find a person has died, and we’re the first ones to discover them,” he said yesterday.

“Otherwise it could well be months before a person is discovered.

“It’s extremely sad.”

Mr MacDonald said the problem was worse in the big cities, as country people tended to “be more supportive and check on each other”.

“In the city you’re much more anonymous and people just get missed,” he said.

“There are so many instances of people who have family, but one son lives in Brisbane, another’s in Perth and another’s in Oregon.”

University of Melbourne social scientist Lauren Rosewarne warned that the “sandwich generation” of baby boomer parents could be too busy to look after elderly parents if “kidults” were still living at home.

“If the kids are in the house it’s easier to sideline the parents, because you’re looking at the concerns of your immediate household,” she said.

“The older parents are living longer, as well, so the generation in the middle – the parents of the 20-year-olds – are pulled in a lot of different directions.”

One in three Australians older than 75 – or more than 400,000 elderly people – lives alone, Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows.

And new data from the Melbourne Institute’s HILDA survey of 7500 families reveals the number of share households has nearly halved in a decade, as Gen Y children stay living with their parents during their 20s and 30s.

Just 1.4 per cent of households are shared by unrelated adults, the survey shows – down from 2.6 per cent in 2001.

“Living on instant noodles in a share house doesn’t have as much appeal as living with your parents, who cook your meals and do your washing,” Dr Rosewarne said.

“The baby boomers and younger parents are considered to be less of the old draconian conservative types, and more likely to have a friendship-based relationship with their kids.

“Potentially the parents and kids like the same popular culture.”

Mission Australia chief executive Toby Hall yesterday said the greying population would result in a “tsunami” of older people living alone – and many would be “desperately lonely”.

“What we need to bring back to the Australian culture is caring for the elderly among us,” he said.

“We need to say to families, ‘Make sure you’re caring for your parents.’

“We need to take more responsibility ourselves.”

Mr Hall urged Australians to keep an eye on their elderly neighbours, which would set a good example for children.

“It might make us a better country, better people, if we took time to knock on the door and check on our elderly neighbours,” he said.

“It can be just five minutes a day that makes all the difference to these people and allow them to stay living at home.”