Academic journal article Rural Society

Managing Older People's Assets: Does Rurality Make a Difference?

Academic journal article Rural Society

Managing Older People's Assets: Does Rurality Make a Difference?

Article excerpt

Introduction

Older people's money and property have become the focus of increasing attention as a result of projections on population ageing (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2001), and the growing wealth and asset base of older Australians (Hardlng, King & Kelly, 2002). Research (Tilse, Setterlund, Wilson & Rosenman, 2005) has shown that management and use of these assets is entrenched in cultural expectations around inheritance and family asset sharing, and is negotiated within an increasingly complex array of aged care, superannuation and pension, privacy and substitute decision-making legislation and policies. As the range of parties interested in these resources has broadened from the older person and immediate family to include the government and private sectors, the scene has been set for competing claims and the need for increasingly complex decision-making by the older person and those assisting them with their financial matters.

Competently managing and protecting assets is Important for ensuring retirement Incomes and choice In housing, health and community care as people age and need their assets to ensure their lifestyle in retirement. Managing assets and money for an older person is an increasingly demanding and complex aspect of Informal care which requires knowledge and expertise regarding financial management and legal and accountability requirements. Few unpaid carers (family members, friends and neighbours), or community and aged care service providers (who are predominantly trained in health and nursing care) are likely to have such expertise. Access to appropriately trained and experienced financial professionals and services Is necessary. Prior research has Indicated there is a poor understanding of the legal requirements, duty of care and of the individual familial and social contexts of asset management for older people (Setterlund, Wilson & Tilse, 1999; Setterlund, Tllse & Wilson, 2002) by health and community care providers and by many general legal and financial professionals. Furthermore, detecting financial abuse or (advertent or inadvertent) mismanagement of an older person's finances requires alert professionals, financial service providers, and professional and community cooperation. People are more likely to be at risk of financial abuse and mismanagement when assets are complex and intertwined, and detection can be more difficult if there are no services, service deliverers visit irregularly and/ or if they know and trust the perpetrator.

A number of studies indicate that care giving, service delivery, saving for and managing in retirement and detecting and dealing with abuse in rural and remote Australia pose particular challenges due to rural-specific economic and social factors, including recession and debt, complex and intertwined assets derived from managing family businesses such as a farm, distance, community cohesion, and lack of access to services (Alston, 2002: Cheers. 1998; Dempsey, 1990). Assets based upon managing and owning a farm can be particularly complex due to the intermingling of home and business, inheritance and family succession and fluctuations in property values (Gray, 1991; Le Heron, 1991).

This paper is based upon a research program exploring issues in money and asset management by and on behalf of older people. In rural Australia asset complexity, particularly of family farm related assets, distance, and service and professional accessibility and specific knowledge pose particular issues for older people, their carers and financial and community care services in managing older people's assets. These challenges, which may be counterbalanced by community support and community networks, form the focus of this paper.

Older people in rural Australia

A number of themes emerge from the literature in relation to the potentially unique impact of rurality on the lives of older people, their assets, carers and asset management practices. …

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