The much-anticipated report is out and there have been calls that it falls short of a bold transformational blueprint. However, I am not sure that it was ever meant to. The transformation and innovation should come from consumers and providers working together to create models of care which meets the needs of modern Australia. I’m not sure this is government work, albeit they have a role to play.

Australia’s aged care sector needs to change. As we prepare for a demographic shift that will triple the population aged 80 and over in the next 40 years, we need to re-envision aged care. This is more than just a challenge; it’s an opportunity for innovation and improvement.

The taskforce’s findings reveal an urgent need for more comprehensive aged care services to accommodate an additional million older Australians expected to require assistance within two decades. With a current growth rate of 44,000 in-home care places per year, the sector’s financial model requires a recalibration to meet escalating demands without compromising on quality.

The recalibration needs a balanced funding model where the government continues its crucial role as the primary funder, particularly in the realm of essential care needs. Consistent with the philosophy that has long governed other stages of life, the taskforce endorses that when individuals reach 80, much like at 40, they should receive necessary care funded by the government, as they would in a hospital environment.

Conversely, for services like gardening and cleaning, which individuals traditionally support themselves throughout adulthood, a co-contribution model is recommended. This approach is centred on the premise that that vital care services can be preserved and prioritised.

The task force highlights that as older Australians express a strong preference to age in place, they should be supported in doing so.

Due to rising property values and growing superannuation funds, many older Australians are entering retirement with more financial resources than the generations before them. This increased personal wealth gives them a greater capacity to contribute towards their own aged care costs when required.

The future economic landscape shows that the tax burden will increasingly being carried by a shrinking workforce as the proportion of older, non-taxpaying residents rises. However, that there remains a portion of the retired population, notably women and non-homeowners, who will continue to rely on some form of the Age Pension and should continue to be supported more by the government.

Within this new framework lies the opportunity to do what the sector has been financially unable to do: the chance to innovate. Financial viability is the foundation of innovation, and the taskforce’s recommendations could usher in a wave of fresh, creative solutions. Providers, spurred on by a stable funding regime, could explore new service delivery models, embrace new technologies, and tailor services to the diverse needs of an aging population.

Critically, the taskforce emphasises that changes must benefit older Australians. A sustainable sector fosters confidence that high-quality care will be available when and where it’s needed. The taskforce has committed to integrating the principles of fairness, transparency, and adaptability.

The taskforce’s report is more of a vision for an aged care system that balances government support with consumer contributions, safeguards quality care, and enables innovation. As a sector, it is an opportunity for all stakeholders to come together and build an aged care landscape that can stand as a model of excellence and sustainability for future generations.