Valley seniors have state's worst access to public transport

THE Clarence Valley is home to some of the poorest seniors in New South Wales, and the population is getting older fast.

Already 21% of residents are aged 65 or over.

The Daily Examiner today reveals that figure will reach 32% by 2031, with 18,400 seniors calling the Clarence Valley home.

We are demanding the Federal Government fixes the unfair imbalance that leaves our seniors more destitute, isolated and with inferior health care access compared to those in the city.

Council on the Ageing NSW's 50+ Report reveals North Coast seniors have the state's lowest household incomes, with seven in 10 earning less than $50,000 a year.

It is also home to the worst public transport of any region in New South Wales, with just 15% of older residents having used buses or trains compared to 85% of those in Sydney's east and inner suburbs.

Department of Human Services data reveals 78.3% of Clarence Valley residents over the age of 65 are on an age pension, compared to 63.3% in Brisbane and a national rate of 69.5%.

COTA NSW chief executive officer Ian Day said seniors outside metropolitan areas desperately needed Federal Government support to improve the state's regional public transport system.

In the wake of rail closures because of a lack of Federal funding, he proposed using new technologies to help regional seniors get around.

"On the North Coast, you've got lots of people who are prepared to volunteer," he said.

"One thought we've had is to do something like Uber is doing.

"If the government can grab hold of similar technology to co-ordinate volunteers to where they're needed, that would be a great help.

"We already have the technology, the volunteers have a car - we just need to put the two together."

Mr Day said the exodus of older people priced out of the Sydney housing market meant the North Coast was a booming retirement destination.

But locations of doctors and health services were poorly planned, away from where older populations were moving.

He said regional seniors were also getting a raw deal on home care.

"Mrs Jones can get a package of $40,000 a year to look after her at home," he said.

"But if she's not living in town, half of that money goes to transport to get the carer to her.

"At the end of the day, she ends up with half the care of someone in the city."

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