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Ongoing calls for government to address homelessness among older Australians leads to action

The first step in government support of Australia's growing population of homeless and vulnerable older Australians has been taken with the official opening of Mission Australia’s Benjamin Short Grove Aged Care Facility in Orange on 20 November.

Celebrating the opening of Mission Australia's new aged care facility, Benjamin Short Grove (Source: Mission Australia)
Celebrating the opening of Mission Australia's new aged care facility, Benjamin Short Grove (Source: Mission Australia)

Located in the Central West of New South Wales (NSW), the new purpose-built $16.7 million facility has been funded by government investment of $14.7 million as well as $1.5 million collated through the community and Mission Australia supporters; with ongoing funding for the facility provided through the government aged care system.

Mission Australia General Manager of Aged Care Jill Bicknell shares her thanks of the government and community who supported the facility, which features 60 single rooms with ensuites, divided across four pods of 15 rooms, each with their own dining room and two lounge facilities, 24 hour nursing assistance, access to medical specialist services, tailored dietary and nutrition planning, two activity rooms and barbecue and landscaped outdoor areas.

“The support from the local community and beyond has been incredible,” she says.

“We are very grateful to the community for their ongoing support for the facility and we look forward to providing a range of leisure and lifestyle activities so residents have an opportunity to connect with the local community.”

Ms Bicknell adds that those who have a history of chronic homelessness and disadvantage typically require more specialised support and integrated services than those residing in mainstream aged care services.

“Many older people or people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness are sadly no longer in contact with family or their social networks,” she says.

“They also often age prematurely due to a poor lifestyle and face other problems like chronic health problems, malnutrition, chronic illness, or a history of violence and trauma.

“Here at the Benjamin Short Grove, we prioritise a person-centred approach to make sure every person who lives here receives the tailored support they need, with activities including care planning, help with hygiene and living activities, assistance with medication administration and access to allied health services.”

The opening of the new facility comes following Mission Australia’s recent release of their Ageing and Homelessness report which highlighted the growing demand for residential aged care facilities like Benjamin Short Grove.

Upon the release of the report earlier this month, Mission Australia Chief Executive Officer Catherine Yeomans shared her concerns for the future, warning of an “imminent” increase in homeless seniors when the population of older Australians aged over 65 is expected to more than double by 2057.

“There simply aren’t enough aged care facilities like Benjamin Short Grove that specialise in caring for people with complex needs and who may have a history of homelessness or disadvantage,” Ms Yeomans says.

“The intensive level of care that we provide at our specialised aged care facilities is vital for the people who live there who regularly face high levels of frailty and who have high needs.”

She adds that if construction of one new homeless aged care service was funded by the Government each year in each state and territory, according to need, that it would have a meaningful impact on addressing the current shortfall and provide homes for many more vulnerable people to age with dignity.

Federal Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt attended the opening of Benjamin Short Grove and has welcomed the initiative that his department, the Department of Health, part-financed to make a reality.

“I commend and thank Mission Australia for their dedication in creating a welcoming, safe and comfortable home for 60 vulnerable older people,” Minister Wyatt says.

“The causes of homelessness are complex, and the number of older people finding themselves without proper accommodation is of great concern.

“Our vision for aged care is to provide access to quality, affordable, respectful and culturally comfortable care for every Australian, regardless of where they live or what their circumstances are.”

Minister Wyatt also notes that to give certainty to frontline organisations like Mission Australia, the government have committed more than $375 million to state and territory governments, for homelessness support services over the next three years.

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