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Research Report: The legal needs of older people
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The legal needs of older people  ( 2004 )  Cite this report



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Chapter 1. Introduction


What sorts of legal issues arise for people as they grow older? How well does the system of law and justice meet the legal needs of people aged 65 years and over? Do older people have access to the legal information they need? What non-legal forms of assistance do older people use in dealing with legal issues?

This report considers the particular legal needs of older people in NSW and the barriers they face in accessing services that can help them resolve their legal issues.

The 2001 Census conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) found that there were 828,475 people aged 65 and over in NSW, comprising 13 per cent of the population. Women were a majority of the older group overall (56 per cent) and a high proportion of those aged 85 and over (69 per cent).1 Consideration of the services required to address the needs of older people is becoming more important with population trends indicating steady increases in the population aged 65 and over. It is projected that people over the age of 65 will comprise 17 per cent of the population in NSW by 2016.2 There are two main reasons for this increase:

  • The large cohort born between the end of World War 2 and the early 1960s, the Baby Boomers, is ageing. The high birth rate in this period was followed by lower birth rates subsequently.3
  • The life expectancy of older people has increased over recent decades and is expected to increase further. Life expectancy at age 65 is 16.85 years for a man and 20.44 years for a woman. This has increased by four years in the last three decades and is projected to increase further.4


Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2001 Census Basic Community Profile and Snapshot New South Wales, 2001 Census of Population and Housing, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, 2001. Available at <http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs%40census.nsf/4079a1bbd2a04b80ca256b9d00208f92/c2ce6c310b89361fca256bbe008371f3!OpenDocument#Table3> (Last accessed 15 December 2003).
Australian Bureau of Statistics, Older People, New South Wales, Catalogue n.4108.1, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Sydney, 2000, p. 2.
Commonwealth Treasury, Intergenerational Report 200203, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2002.
Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Life Tables 19882000, Deaths, Australia, Catalogue n.3302.0, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, 2000, see Tables 7.33 and 7.34.

 Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2001 Census Basic Community Profile and Snapshot New South Wales, 2001 Census of Population and Housing, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, 2001. Available at <http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs%40census.nsf/4079a1bbd2a04b80ca256b9d00208f92/c2ce6c310b89361fca256bbe008371f3!OpenDocument#Table3> (Last accessed 15 December 2003).
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Older People, New South Wales, Catalogue n.4108.1, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Sydney, 2000, p. 2.
 Commonwealth Treasury, Intergenerational Report 200203, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2002.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Life Tables 19882000, Deaths, Australia, Catalogue n.3302.0, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, 2000, see Tables 7.33 and 7.34.


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Ellison, S, Schetzer, L, Mullins, Perry, J & Wong, K 2004, The legal needs of older people in NSW, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney