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At the end of 2007 I started to distribute a survey among older Australians about issues which concern us but we have no chance to air because we are excluded form research and decision making.

In Australia we are particularly voiceless. There are two major organisations. The National Seniors has a reputation for being middle class and does not employ people over 60, i.e. those who have knowledge of ageing. The other organisation is the Council of the Ageing (COTA). I am not sure who runs this but in 3 years of membership I have never been asked to vote for anybody and it rarely holds meetings.

I asked both organisations to distribute my survey. National Seniors did so on a very limited level and COTA just ignored me. I distributed it at the annual conference of the Older Womens Network, with a request that it be distributed in each State. Ethnic groups were also contacted. From all of these sources I only received 17 responses, one of which was a group response from an ethnic community. This low response rate raises questions about the environment in which people age in Australia. Are we treated so much like second class citizens that we feel it is useless to raise our voices? Was the recent public clothes removal by pensioners in Melbourne an indication that we have to take desperate measures if we want our voices heard?

Despite the low response rate, those who did speak up raised 64 issues between them, showing that there are many issues which are not being addressed which would make life easier, more productive and happier for older people in Australia.

I divided the responses into categories which fitted in with those in my thesis as far as possible.

Health. This produced 26 responses. These included dental, hearing and vision impairment, and the problems of aged care, including respite care and easier movement between types of care. There was strong support for the euthanasia debate to be held, and the problem of loneliness needs to be addressed. Older people recognise the need for keeping a healthy body and mind and request that help be provided for this.

Housing. This produced 11 responses. Assistance with moving from the family home through downsizing or into accommodation providing care is needed. Help in adapting current accommodation through stair lifts was requested. The cost of care accommodation, particularly for those with limited resources, is an issue. The lack of appropriate accommodation for the mentally ill, the physically disabled the non-English speaking was also mentioned.

Transport attracted 9 responses. These referred to inadequate public transport, including the distance to bus stops, stairs on buses, trains and taxis and the gap between trains and platforms. The loss of the driving licence through ageing leads to dependence which needs to be addressed.

Money and assistance. These produced 9 responses. Provision of free financial and other advice to pensioners was requested. There needs to be better publicity for help available, and activities for the elderly, and counselling services. Home care is expensive and there are waiting lists in some areas.

Other. This produced 9 responses. Greater understanding of older people and our needs was requested. Older people need assistance in adjusting to change, such as with ever changing mobile phones. As these get smaller they are more difficult for older people to operate. ATM’s also may offer a challenge. Access to cultural events/ facilities such as libraries, lectures, movies, concerts and theatres. This ties in with the siting of accommodation for the elderly- sites should be appropriate to the needs of the elderly, not just cheap.