Phone : +61 03 9534 1809 Not-for-profit housing agency providing affordable accommodation for low-income, disadvantaged people.

(Without a Home) I lost my independence.

Homelessness and Older Australians

According to the 2011 Census, just under 20% of those counted as homeless – or 14,851 people – were aged 55 years and over.[i]

The following table shows that this figure had increased form that of the previous census in 2006.

  2006 2011 Change % Change
Improvised dwellings – tents or sleeping out 1,316 1,411 95 7
Supported accommodation for the homeless 1,319 1,916 597 45
Staying temporarily with other households 3,237 3,858 621 19
Staying in boarding houses 4,293 4,759 466 11
Other temporary lodging 147 198 51 35
Persons in severely crowded dwellings 2,142 2,709 567 26
All homeless 55+ 12,460 14,851 2,391 19


What factors contribute to homelessness for older Australians? The literature suggests there are two broad groups: those who have experienced extended periods of homelessness throughout their lives, have had contact with a number of agencies and are counted among the homeless figures and; those who are at risk of homelessness as a consequence of “unexpected life events such as the death of a spouse, relationship crises, decline in health, or rental increases.”[ii] Of these factors, the high costs of the private market are considered paramount.

Ageing in place represents a bi-partisan approach to aged care policy. However, the success of this policy rests squarely upon there being a stable and secure place within which to age. Older women are particularly vulnerable to housing stress in the private rental market as research has shown that they tend to be poorer than their male equivalents, are far less likely to be home owners, and are therefore less able to compete in the private rental market for affordable accommodation.[iii]

If older people’s housing is not secure then their access to appropriate home-based care can be compromised. Some research has found that living in precarious housing in the private rental market has been linked to premature moves into residential care, thereby compromising the independence of older people.[iv]

[ii] Rota-Bartelink, A & Lipman, B, “Causes of homelessness among older people in Melbourne, Australia”. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. Vol. 31, No.3, 2007.
[iii] Mcferran, L. It could be you: female, single, older and homeless. Homelessness NSW 2010.
[iv] See, for example, Petersen, M. And Jones, A., Homelessness and older Australians: scoping the issues. Institute for Social Research. University of Queensland July 2012. p. 25