Research: Australians aged over 85 years will grow by 140% during the next 20 years

Population aged 85+ in Australia, 1991-2041. Source of observed data: ABS. Wilson, Temple (2022).

Researchers in the ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR) has released new population projections for Australia, with a particular focus on population ageing. Australia’s population aged 85 and above is projected to increase dramatically over the next 20 years.

The implications for the Australian aged care system are significant when factoring in workforce pressures and recent research conducted by Complispace suggesting that half the workforce will leave in the next three years. Right now, it is estimated by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) that staff shortages in aged care stand at 35,000 workers – double what it was a year ago!

Australia’s demographic trends have been changing quickly over the last two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Fertility, mortality and migration have all been affected.

Taking into account the emerging demographic realities of the pandemic, demographers Dr Tom Wilson and Associate Professor Jeromey Temple from the University of Melbourne have released new population projections for Australia, providing insights for planning and policy purposes on how Australia’s population is expected to change over the next 20 years.

“Based on updated population estimates incorporating 2021 Census results, Australia’s population in all age groups is expected to grow, but the largest proportional growth is expected at the oldest ages,” says Dr Tom Wilson, CEPAR Principal Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne.

Australia’s population aged 65 and over is projected to grow to 6.66 million by 2041, from an estimated 4.31 million in 2021, which is an increase of 54%.

Greater proportional population growth is projected at the highest ages.

Australia’s population aged 85 and above is projected to increase in number from 534,000 in 2021 to 1.28 million by 2041 – an increase of 140%.

The rapid projected increase in the 85+ population is due to projected mortality decline plus larger cohorts reaching age 85 due to past mortality declines and increasing numbers of births many decades ago. In addition, the uptick in growth from around 2031 onwards is the result of the larger baby boom generation entering the 85+ age group.

“The centenarian population, which means those aged 100 and over, will grow at an even faster rate – increasing by 200% from 5,300 in 2021 to 15,900 by 2041”, says Dr Wilson.

Image: Population aged 100+ in Australia, 1991-2041. Source of observed data: authors’ estimates. Wilson, Temple (2022).


  1. The article sounds panicky. In between the lines I read: we need more younger immigration, the typical Ponzi scheme.
    The fact is that the world is overpopulated and must come down in numbers, that creates more older than younger people, a reverse from what mankind has experienced so far.
    There is plenty of time to prepare for it: get people physically active and healthy so that they can look after themselves in their old age. I am in my 80s and regard myself as an exercise junkie – everything I can do to avoid the typical form of aging. And if things go pear-shaped, then please give me a pill and set me free, but don’t lock me up in a nursing home. Dying with Dignity needs to be strengthened too.


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