Homelessness among older people is a growing issue in Australia, with many facing numerous challenges such as poor health, depression and limited access to healthcare services. In Australia, it is estimated that over 116,000 people are homeless of whom 16% are aged 55 and over.

Dr. Claire O'Connor, a member of the UNSW Ageing Futures Institute, has conducted a small-scale study that sheds light on the importance of specialised aged care for this vulnerable population.

The study which enrolled 35 residents in a purpose-built aged care home, found alarming statistics at the time of admission. Almost half the residents had scores suggestive of dementia, the majority were frail and at a high risk of falls, and many exhibited signs of depression.

However despite these initial findings, the research showed positive outcomes for residents enrolled in the aged care home. Over the first 12 months of living in the home, significant improvements were observed in the residents' personal well-being scores, with clinically significant enhancements in overall health-related quality of life. Certain aspects such as physical functional independence, frailty, and global cognition remained stable, while cognitive functional ability showed a decline over time. In addition, a smaller cohort of residents with complete data were also found to have an average saving to government of approximately $32,000 per resident over the 12-month period, compared to 12 months prior to admission.

"Whilst this was a small study, the positive outcomes contribute to the growing body of evidence highlighting the importance of specialised aged care for older adults subject to homelessness," said Dr. Claire O'Connor.

“These findings provide valuable insights that can inform policymakers and healthcare providers in addressing the unique needs of older adults subject to homelessness, promoting the development and expansion of dedicated services to support this vulnerable population.”

Read the full journal article here