It is easy to assume that the majority of renters are singles and couples saving up for their first home. After all, renting is for the young, right? By the time you start thinking about taking it easy and enjoying visits with the grand kids, you’ll have long since been living in your own home.
The modern-day rental market is breaking that stereotype. One of the fastest growing groups of renters in Australia are the elderly. Between 1996 and 2011 alone, the number of renters between the ages of 55 and 64 years increased by 130%, and renters aged 65+ increased by 88% during the same time period. In Victoria alone, there were 168,819 elderly renters as of 2016 – almost 60% more than 2011’s figure.
Given the rising cost of living and purchasing a home, these figures are not surprising. A recent survey conducted by the ASU showed that the typical woman’s superannuation balance on retirement is just $80,000 – enough to live on for just three years even at the most basic of living standards. The story for men isn’t much different, whose average superannuation balance provides only enough to live on for about five and a half years.
As more of our parents and grandparents rent for the long-term, providing renters with more stability and support becomes crucial. Allowing pets in rental properties is good for all renters, but this reform is particularly important for the elderly.
Several studies have shown the physical and psychological benefits of owning pets. Owning a pet can reduce a person’s blood pressure by nearly one-third, thus reducing their risk of heart attack. A study by Mugford and M’Comisky found that pensioners form a strong bond with their pets, who displace medical ailments as the main topic of conversation. Studies also show that pets play a vital role in providing the elderly with a sense of safety and comfort, combatting stress, keeping them active, and providing opportunities to socialise with their peers. The act of caring for a pet has also been found to give the elderly a sense of purpose and encourage them to take better care of themselves.
As we discuss the practical aspects of the promised reforms to the Residential Tenancies Act, we cannot lose sight of the human aspect. Welcoming pets into rental properties isn’t just a nice thing to do for renters: It’s also about giving some of the state’s most vulnerable tenants an additional and much needed support mechanism to help them thrive.
You can’t put a price tag on that.
- 2016 and 2011 Census, Australian Bureau of Statistics
- Having a dog can help your heart – literally, Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/having-a-dog-can-help-your-heart--literally
- Cat owners have lower heart attack risk, study, Medical News Today, 25 February 2008, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/98432.php
- Companion animals and the elderly, Roberta Erickson, Geriatric Nursing, March/April 1985