Double jeopardy: Old age and nowhere secure to lay your head

On Census night in 2001 around 14,000 older Australians aged 55 years and over experienced homelessness. This represents 14 per cent of the homeless population. When the next Census figures are released, this figure will almost certainly have risen. War veterans make up approximately 10% of this group of older, homeless Australians. Some are drug and alcohol dependent and suffer from mental illness. It is possible that older people experiencing homelessness are under-represented in statistics because they live outside the conventional system of care, including the homeless service system. Often these people approach mainstream services but they are not recorded as being homeless. It is estimated that 250,000 people over the age of 60 are homeless or at risk of homelessness across Australia. These numbers are on the rise, and will escalate more rapidly over the next decade as the demographics of Australian society shift to a higher proportion of people over 55 years old.