A sustained low national birth rate and increased life expectancy means the ratio of those aged 65-plus increases significantly every year. As such, the laws around how our elderly population is housed and cared for effect more Victorians than ever before. These laws, however, can be quite complex and it is crucial that care receivers understand fully how the aged care system works and, particularly, how it is funded, since any move into this system will, likely, affect recipients for life.


Rebecca Edwards, Tabitha O'Shea, Andelka Obradovic and Julia Jeffries

Lawyers, Seniors Rights Victoria

Introduction to legal issues affecting older people

For the purposes of this chapter, the terms ‘older people’ and ‘seniors’ refer to people over the age of 60 years old. 

This chapter covers the following topics:

  • elder abuse including situations with the potential for financial abuse:
    • transferring property or assets in exchange for care,
    • loans and gifts,
    • the use of funds without authority or in excess of authority,
    • the misuse of powers of attorney,
    • fraud or pressure to sign documents,
    • sharing a home with an adult child;
  • age discrimination;
  • grandparents’ access to grandchildren.

Currently in Victoria, 1.25 million people are aged over 60, which is more than 20 per cent of the population. By 2031, our older population is due to comprise 22 per cent of the population in Melbourne and 31 per cent in regional and rural Victoria.

Older people are highly diverse: 41 per cent of Victorians aged over 65 – and 46 per cent of those aged over 85 – were born overseas (ABS 2017).

While ageing provides people with opportunities and options, Victoria’s diverse older population can also be affected by numerous legal issues, some of which are unique to them.

This chapter provides information on some of those legal issues that are either unique to this population group or tend to disproportionally impact older people. Many of the other topics in this book are also relevant to older people.

This chapter does not cover these topics (while these topics are unique to older people, they are beyond the scope of this chapter):

  • residential aged care;
  • home care packages and support;
  • retirement villages.
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Health, wills and other legal issues affecting older people