Aging population to think about the future

Date: Jul 13, 2011

There's no doubt about it - Australia's population is ageing.

Projections from the Australian Bureau of Statistics have placed the percentage of Australians aged 65 and over at 20 per cent by the year 2040.

An increase in the average life expectancy - along with a decreased birth rate - has shifted the population away from the relatively youthful makeup of previous decades.

Factors influencing these shifts include better health care - mainly in the fields of childhood infections and parasitic diseases - as well as demographic lifestyle changes.

These moves in the populations composition have meant authorities have started to plan for a retirement boom.

This shift will occur as the current workforce reaches retirement age - which is projected to reach 67 sometime in the next ten years.

Experts are also worried about how the legal system will deal with the older generation, with Professor Baroness Susan Greenfield of Oxford University describing the change in population as a potential epidemic of mental health issues.

In response, government departments have made information on issues such as estate planning readily available via dedicated websites.

A person who dies intestate - in other words, without a legal will in place - has their assets and worldly possessions divided up by the law.

Further, a person who is incapacitated and unable to direct family or medical personnel will have to rely on their judgement regarding treatment decisions.

The government highlights that a living will can help ensure that you receive the type of care you wish to receive.

A living will is comprised of two parts - one for medical personnel and one that gives a trusted individual your power of attorney.

A great deal of thought should be given to the matter of just who will receive the power of attorney.

This person should be of a disposition that will enable them to present your wishes to the medical establishment - as well as other family members - and ensure that you will receive the type of care you have specified.

Your choice should also take into account the frequency with which the person with your power of attorney may be required to attend to your estate.

These documents - along with your regular will and testament - should be drafted with the assistance of your wills and estates lawyer to lessen the chance of future estate disputes