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Risk of Homelessness for Older Women in Australia

The conversation around the increasing risk of homeless women over the age of 55 in Australia isn’t a new one, but one that’s needed. Identifying the key issues is necessary to find solutions to the risk of homelessness for senior women.

Causes for Older Women to Become Homeless

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission 2019 ©, there are several causes for older women to become homeless. Living alone is a key issue due to the economic disadvantage that many women face. Having a single household income along with the economic disadvantage that women face, means that the smallest change in circumstances can lead to homelessness.

Ageing increases the risk of unemployment as well as the risk of getting age-related illnesses. These changes can see immediate impacts on older women’s financial circumstances.

Additionally, unaffordable housing and retiring with a mortgage are key factors contributing to the increased risk of homelessness. Prior to Covid-19, women over 55 years of age were already the fastest-growing group of homeless people in Australia. The global pandemic has further exposed financially vulnerable groups. These include casual or part-time employees, single parents, and people in the rental market.

Not being able to pay rent or a mortgage, job losses, the loss of a partner, experiencing ill health, and having less superannuation in retirement are all reasons that older women are vulnerable and at risk of homelessness. Looking for solutions to this growing problem is in the spotlight at the moment.

older woman massaging another woman's shoulders

Housing Solutions for Women at Risk

Recently, ABC News published the article “New concept to see older women living together to avoid homelessness, loneliness.” This explored a foundation that formed to provide an opportunity for older women to buy into an affordable, custom-built home. The aim is to create a home that enables 5 women to enter or re-enter the housing market together. In turn, this can also conquer other social issues that older women face, including loneliness and isolation.

The Australian Human Rights Commission 2019 © documented other potential housing solutions for older homeless women or older women at risk of homelessness. One of the solutions is in line with the previously mentioned part-purchasing of a home. Another solution discussed was a rent-to-buy model.

Furthermore, greater access to more secure and affordable rentals would result in a more financially viable retirement and greater opportunity to age in place. This would lead the way to senior women escaping poverty and feeling safer and more secure. While these aren’t all of the potential solutions, the conversation is happening. Organizations and bodies are looking at options to reduce the risk of homelessness for women over 55.

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