This socioeconomic study explores the individual characteristics (gender, education, age and household type) of the non-institutionalised Gold Coast aged to explain their access to private resources of wealth, health, and social network. Government policy towards self-reliance during old age (compulsory superannuation, tightening of the means test on the age pension. Home and Community Care and recent tax changes) makes it paramount for us to study individual characteristics in order to explain socioeconomic differentials.
The Gold Coast is a preferred location for retirement, boasting, as it does, the highest proportion of residents, aged 65 years and over - 5% higher than the overall Australian proportions.
Using regression analysis based on the study's survey data (conducted in 1998/1999) of 401 Gold Coast older residents, this thesis tests the hypothesis that (1) gender and education explain
socioeconomic differentials among the aged in general and that (2) the wealth, health and social network effects of education are different between men and women.
The result of the analysis revealed that education was a significant determinant of socioeconomic differentials (as indicated by wealth, health and social network) among the total sample and when segregated by household type (single-person and couple). Gender was significant when respondents were segregated into single and couple households, but part of that gender effect depended on education. Single females had significantly less access to income and private transport than single males. However the evidence suggested that single males suffered most from weaker social networks. Indeed contact with family was significantly less for single older males.
The study also highlighted the special features of the Gold Coast region. Our results showed that the longer the aged resided on
the Gold Coast the better the social network structure, while the type of housing influenced opportunities for social interaction. Further, single-people residing in high-rise apartments were more likely to suffer from social isolation than those residing elsewhere.
Lastly the analysis found no significance in the gender or education variable in explaining health status. The implication is that the Australian universal health care system may have indeed equalised health status among the aged.
In light of the government's increasing notion of self-reliance I conclude by suggesting that policy makers continue to provide equitable access to education to equalise future retirement incomes. Concern for many women living alone provides strong support for the continuation of government subsidised programmes such as "transcord", that meet the transport needs of the aged. Finally, I raise concerns for the availability of
informal care among single-person households and particularly among single older men, given the government's continuing move towards self-reliance, as reflected in the Home and Community Care programme that relys on informal support.