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People using aged care

Almost a quarter of a million people (249,000) were using residential care, home care or transition care services in Australia on 30 June 2016. This number has increased from 189,000 in 2006—a 31% increase over the last decade. In addition, in 2015–16 around 640,000 people were assisted in their home under the Commonwealth Home Support Program, along with around 290,000 older people under the Home and Community Care Program. (Note that these two programs are not further reported in this section.)
The social characteristics of the people receiving care tell us how the care system is functioning. Some groups of people are overrepresented in certain types of care and others are underrepresented. Learn about the people in aged care in this topic.

Some of the key characteristics of people in aged care are:

  • Women outnumber men in aged care services because on average they live longer and have higher care needs at these older ages.

  • The majority of people receiving aged care services are in urban areas, reflecting where most care facilities are located.

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are underrepresented in mainstream residential care, accounting for less than 1% of all people in permanent residential aged care. They are, however, better represented in home care, making up 4% of people in home care who had their Indigenous status recorded.

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in residential care are on average younger than non-Indigenous people. This may be due to their higher complex health needs and shorter life expectancies.

  • Around one-third (32%) of people in aged care services were born overseas. This reflects migration to Australia over past decades, with 36% of people aged 65 years and over in Australia having been born overseas.

3 in 4 people receiving aged care services are in residential care

The majority of people receiving aged care services on 30 June 2016 were in residential aged care (73%). This included people who were in permanent residential care and those who were there for a respite stay. However, the proportion of people in residential care has decreased over time:

  • The proportion of all aged care recipients in residential services has fallen from 82% in 2006 to 73% in 2016.

  • In contrast, the proportion of people receiving aged care services in home care has gone up from 18% in 2006 to 26% in 2016.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in aged care services are younger than non-Indigenous people


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face multiple health and social disadvantages. They are more likely to develop serious medical conditions earlier in life, and they have a lower life expectancy than their non-Indigenous counterparts. Almost two–thirds (65%) of deaths among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people occur before the age of 65, compared with 19% of non-Indigenous deaths. You can learn more about the health and welfare of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from the Indigenous Observatory.

Along with the other options for care, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program helps to address needs specific to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by providing culturally-appropriate care in locations close to Indigenous communities. On 30 June 2016, there were 820 places available in this program.

The graph below shows the spread of Indigenous people in permanent residential aged care across all age groups. More than 4% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in permanent residential care on 30 June 2016 were aged under 50 years. This is more than 10 times higher than the proportion of non-Indigenous people in permanent residential care who were aged under 50 years (0.3%).

People in rural areas are more likely to use residential aged care facilities for short visits than people in urban areas


The proportion of people in residential aged care who were admitted for a short respite stay varies across Australia. On 30 June 2016, 2.6% of the people in residential care facilities in Major cities were there for respite care. This proportion increased in more rural areas, with the highest proportion being in Remote and Very remote regions.
Learn more about the people in aged care, including their characteristics and factors that influence the way people use these services by clicking through to the explore section.