Can statistics help find a good place to retire in Australia?

View over Hobart towards the Derwent River in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

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Recently the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released data to announce Australia’s oldest capital and area, by median age. The ‘winners’ were Hobart in Tasmania; and the Tea Gardens-Hawks Nest area in New South Wales.

In order:

Median age by state capital:

Tasmania: 39.8
South Australia: 38.7
Western Australia: 36.1
New South Wales: 35.8
Victoria: 35.6
Queensland: 35.3
Northern Territory: 33.6

Median age by area:

Tea Gardens-Hawks Nest (NSW): 62.4
Bribie Island (QLD): 59.6
Goolwa-Port Eliot (SA): 58.3
Point Lonsdale-Queensliff (VIC): 58.3
Forestier-Tasman (TAS): 55.9
York-Beverley (WA): 51.5
Ross (TAS): 45.2

When we were writing one edition of Where To Retire In Australia, we went to a manager at a local government office in a coastal area. We were interested in asking about the facilities and utilities in the area. His response was, ‘I don’t want retirees coming to live here.’ According to him, ‘Retirees cost the area money.’

Fast forward a few years and the talk around many councils is of ‘Age Friendly Strategies’; outdoor exercise equipment; social participation; and, in the case of the City of Cockburn in Western Australia, holding six seniors information sessions annually as well as a healthy lifestyle expo.

The good thing also, is that many councils refer to ‘inclusiveness’ and integrated age-friendly planning.

But back to the ABS statistics. Some of the areas mentioned do not necessarily have a large population. Also, it would be incorrect, like some news or PR items claim, to assume that lots of people are moving to these areas to retire, or these are necessarily  ‘popular’ with  retirees. Some areas are ‘growing older’ and  younger people aren’t moving back to an area after their education. Some people have lived in an area for a very long time. And some areas do not have a ‘pull’ for newcomers.

You can see if an area or town is vibrant by, for example, new housing, shops not being vacant and the variety of shops in a town. The Goolwa-Port Eliot area in South Australia, for example, is popular not only because of the scenery and community, but also because of its proximity to Adelaide.

Some older people may be attracted to an area because it seems to have a lot of retirees and they feel like they ‘fit in’. The recreation, leisure and housing facilities may also be a drawcard.

So, the above statistics give an indication of what an area is like in terms of a median age. But there’s nothing like going and researching an area well before retirement to see if it appeals. Take a good look at the medical facilities, transport, cost of living, security, and see if there are permanent residents around you—to name but a few on our Where to Retire in Australia checklist.

I wonder if the manager at that coastal council has moved in his retirement.

Jill Weeks is the author of 21 Ways to Retire and co-author of Where to Retire in Australia and Retire Bizzi. She is a regular contributor to ABC radio.

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