The Downageing Generation

Monday, September 09, 2013

Australians are living longer than ever before and this remarkable growth in longevity is the primary cause of our ageing population. 

With Australians living longer, they are also working later and remaining active as grandparents more and later in life than ever before.

Many older Australians are in a life stage significantly younger than their age. 20th Century expectations of age can no longer be applied in the 21st Century, as traditional demographics don’t match new psychographics. From technology uptake to working longer, older Australians are not just “retired and wired” but working, leading and influencing later in life than has ever been seen.

Here’s a demographic snapshot of the downageing situation:

Comparative analysis of Australia’s 60-year-olds



National population

The total population has more than doubled.

10 million

23 million

Average age of becoming a grandparent

Grandparents are older chronologically but younger psychologically.



Life expectancy at birth

We can expect to live 12 years longer today than in 1953.


F: 73


F: 84

Life expectancy at 65

65’s of today are like 58’s of a generation ago in terms of longevity.



Source: McCrindle Research, ABS

Australia’s new grandparents: Younger than their parents were at the same age

Australia’s new grandparents, aged 60 are the Baby Boomers. Since the Boomers (born 1946-1964), we’ve seen Generation X (born 1965-1979), Gen Y (born 1980-1994) and this year Generation Z (born since 1995) enter adulthood and the Boomers are now grandparenting Generation Alpha.

But they are a generation of “downagers” – younger than their parents were at the same age, younger than their age would suggest, and based on the life expectancy rates, a 65 year old grandparent is more like a 58 year old of a generation ago.

Statistical summary of today’s downageing population

  • Demographic mid-life for an Australian has been pushed back to 50 years for a male, and 52 for a female in terms of adult years lived (since turning 18) and adult years to go (32 years lived since turning 18 and 32 years life expectancy for a male aged 50, and 34 adult years lived and 34 to go on average for a female).
  • The median age of employed persons in industries such as Education and Health is now 45 years – so while there are many workers in their 20’s, there are many in their 60’s, resulting in a median age of 45.
  • Today's grandparents are a working generation: 1 in 4 males aged 68 are employed full time, and 1 in 10 females aged 68 are employed full time.

Remember that many of today’s 60-something leaders have been in leadership since their 20’s and 30’s – they were needed during the boom years of the 50’s and 60’s. They also see no need to stop leading – having gained experience through decades and a lot of life left, they continue leading many of Australia’s businesses and industries.

For further research and an occupation breakdown of workers 65+, see our entry Older Workers, Downagers, and Redefining Retirement.

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