Australia is an ethnically diverse society and nearly one in three Australians were born overseas.  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were the original inhabitants and make up 2.8% of our population.  Australia's population is also growing and reached 25 million in 2018.  It grew by 390,500 people between June 2017 and June 2018. Net overseas migration added 236,700 people to the population and accounted for 60% of Australia's total population growth in this period.  Australia’s geography and natural landscape, distribution of its population across the country, and cultural and linguistic diversity influences care planning and service provision.
Like most developed countries, Australia's population is ageing as a result of sustained low fertility and increasing life expectancy.
The proportion of older people-that is people aged 65 and over-in the Australian population has steadily increased over the last two decades, rising to 3.9 million in 2018.  There has also been an increase in the number of people aged 85 and over, to 503,685 in 2018. Based on population projections by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there will be 10 million people aged 65 and over and 2.2 million people aged 85 and over by 2066. 
Our ageing population also shows significant cultural diversity with three in ten Australians aged 65 and over in 2016 (33%) born overseas with the majority born in non–English speaking countries.  The most common non-English speaking countries of birth for older people were Italy (3% of all older people), Greece (2%), and Germany (1%).  As the proportion of migrants from Europe decreases and the proportion of migrants from Asian countries increases, the linguistic diversity of older Australians will change. 
Over the next several decades, population ageing will have a range of implications for Australia, including; health, size of the working-age population, housing, and demand for skilled labour.
Older Australians are also likely to have at least one common chronic conditions such as arthritis; asthma; back pain and problems; cancer; cardiovascular disease; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; diabetes; or mental health conditions.  Many of these conditions are life-limiting. As people age that are more likely to need assistance with at least one activity such as health care, mobility or self-care. Around 90% of those aged 90 years or over needed such assistance. 
People accessing specialist palliative care services for support with life-limiting conditions also reflect the diversity of our older population. Data on Australian hospital based palliative care services in 2017 show that the top four languages spoken by patients at home were English (90%) followed by Italian (2.1%), Greek (1.6%), and Chinese (1.2%).  In comparison the top four languages spoken at home for the general population (all adults) in 2017 were English, Mandarin, Arabic, Cantonese, and Vietnamese. 
Inevitably, given this pattern of ageing, death rates in older Australians are also increasing. In 2016, there were 158,504 deaths registered in Australia of which 82% occurred among people aged 65 and over, and 41% of all deaths occurred among people aged over 85 years.  Based on 2012-14 data, people whose last used aged care program before death was residential aged care account for the largest proportion of deaths among older people (44%).  This suggests that aged care services are an important partner in the provision of end-of-life care for older Australians.
Page updated 24 July 2019