Older women have a right to appropriate and affordable housing as a foundation for their wellbeing, however they are the fastest growing cohort of people experiencing homelessness in Australia. Older women’s pathway to homelessness is a gendered issue and a consequence of long-term systemic issues.
Women retire with lower average superannuation balances than men as result of a range of structural social and economic factors including: the gender wage gap; time taken out of the workforce to care for children or other family members; female dominated industries being more likely to be low paid, casual and part-time; experiences of family violence; and, gender and age discrimination in the workforce.
The problem is exacerbated by Australia’s lack of appropriate and affordable housing, particularly for those on low incomes, which means that increasing numbers of older women are left with nowhere to go. This is an unfolding crisis that is only worsened by the economic, social and health impacts of COVID-19,3 which has highlighted the critical link between safe, secure and affordable housing and good health and wellbeing, particularly in older age.
While there have been estimates of the scale of this issue, until now there have been significant gaps in the available data and evidence. Researchers at the University of Adelaide have developed a new approach to provide a more specific estimate of the numbers of older women at risk of homelessness