The purpose of this webpage is to assist councils address ageing population as part of the Integrated Planning and Reporting framework. It should be used in conjunction with the Integrated Planning and Reporting Manual. It sets out steps to take in planning for an ageing population and provides links to key sources of information.

Should you have any queries or further suggestions, or if you identify a problem when using this page, please contact the Office of Local Government by emailing

Why plan for an ageing population

Planning for an ageing population will assist councils ensure that the Community Strategic Plan is based on social justice principles and addresses social considerations which are requirements of the new Integrated Planning and Reporting framework.

In NSW, as in most parts of the world, major population changes are taking place because of declines in fertility and increasing life expectancies. People in NSW are living longer (average life expectancy is projected to increase by about 9 years by 2050) and the proportion of the population made up of people aged 65 and over is projected to increase to 22% in 2031 and 26% by 2051. Population increase in the 15 to 64 years age group will slow over coming decades due to lower past and prospective fertility rates and the passage of the baby boomers into retirement age.2

By planning early, councils can take advantage of new opportunities as well as address challenges associated with an ageing population. In the words of one rural NSW local council,

“Seniors are a significant and growing part of local communities. This demographic trend will lead to new opportunities and challenges in local government. By considering this issue now, Council could possibly minimise the negative impacts of population ageing on local communities and maximise the opportunities it presents.”

Planning for an ageing population can mean that the needs of other groups in the community are also met. Therefore it does not necessarily mean extra work for councils. For example, designing the built environment so that it caters for older people often means that it also caters for other groups in the community that experience difficulty with physical access, such as people with a disability and children.

The Australian Local Government Association has pointed out that local government can lead by example in promoting the positives of an ageing population, for example, by recognising older volunteers and carers and through policies and practices that are aimed at attracting and retaining mature workers. This may assist councils address skills shortages.

Planning for an ageing population – steps to take

  • Step 1 - Getting Started

    The effectiveness of planning for an ageing population will depend largely on the quality of information that is used. There are a number of preparatory processes to undertake before Council and the community can start setting long-term objectives in relation to an ageing population and devising strategies to achieve them. These processes include:

    • Ensuring that Council has a clear vision of what it is trying to achieve through planning for an ageing population. The NSW Government’s strategy to plan for demographic changes Towards 2030: planning for our changing population plan may assist with this.
    • Raising awareness within Council of the ageing population and how it affects all areas of Council, including its workforce.
    • Identifying the key issues relevant to an ageing population in the area and possible impacts and opportunities. Council’s existing strategic planning documents are an excellent starting point for identifying issues, considering local implications and suggesting priorities. Such documents include:
      • Ageing Plan/Strategy. If Council has a completed or well-progressed Ageing Strategy, a suggested framework for integrating this into the Community Strategic Plan, Delivery Program and Operational Plan is set out in Step 4 – Objectives, Strategies and Actions
      • Social Plan
      • Disability Action Plan
      • Access Policy/Plan
      • Community Safety/Crime Prevention Plan
      • Health Plan
      • Recreation/Open Space Plan
      • Facilities Plans
      • Housing Plan
      • Economic Development Plan
      • Needs assessments
      • Reports on findings from community consultation
      • Workforce Management Strategy

    Other sources of information for identifying key issues include:

    • Planning the local government response to ageing and place, LGSA
    • Planning for an ageing community website, ALGA. While this website has not been updated since 2008, it may still provide useful information for councils. It includes a self-assessment checklist to assist councils plan for an ageing population
    • Local Government and Ageing Literature Review and Final Report, University of Western Sydney Urban Research Centre.
    • Housing and Independent Living. Environmental and Built Factors for Maintaining Independence in Older Age, Report to Ageing, Disability and Home Care, Department of Human Services.
    • Council staff in functional areas relevant to an ageing population, for example, Community Services
    • plans/strategies developed by Regional Organisations of Councils
    • Contacting other councils to obtain ideas []
    • Beginning to identify key internal and external stakeholders/partners. The Community Strategic Plan is a whole-of-community plan and is likely to include strategies that will be the responsibility of organisations other than Council to implement. Therefore, it is important that Council identifies key external stakeholders that Council can work in partnership with to develop and implement the Community Strategic Plan. More information about working in partnership is provided in Step 3 – Community Engagement and Partnerships.
  • Step 2 - Background Research

    Council should compile and provide information to the community to assist it to identify major issues and understand how these issues may impact on the community. The Local Government Act and Integrated Planning and Reporting Guidelines set out a number of requirements relating to the Community Strategic Plan that are relevant to background research:

    • Must be adequately informed by relevant information relating to social, environmental, economic and civic leadership issues (section 402)
    • Information that identifies key issues and challenges must be presented to the community in an accessible format to assist its participation in the planning process (Essential Element 1.2, Guidelines)

    In relation to the issue of an ageing population, background research might include the following tasks:

    • Obtain and analyse relevant statistics, including:
      • ABS 4106.1 – Population Ageing in New South Wales, 2008
      • Commonwealth Intergenerational Report
      • Resource for Ageing Population Planning, LGSA
      • Planning and Infrastructure
      • HACC Triennial Plan
    • Consider relevant State and regional plans. A NSW whole-of-government webpage relating to Towards 2030 has been created which includes links to relevant State agency plans
    • Conduct other research which might include:
      • reviewing existing council data relevant to an ageing population e.g. service data, targeted consultations and workshop proceedings
      • reviewing Council’s current policies and levels of service provision, including in relation to sport and recreation, library and information services, community facilities, transport, housing, and the built environment
      • reviewing Council’s current infrastructure provision and planning
      • preparing discussion papers on ageing issues which can be circulated to community members
      • starting to identify possible performance indicators based on research available (see Step 5 – Measuring and Reporting for more information about performance indicators)
  • Step 3 - Community Engagement and Partnerships

    Councils are required to engage with their communities as part of implementing the Integrated Planning and Reporting Framework and are encouraged to work in partnership with their communities, State agencies and other councils to meet the needs of their communities.

    Community engagement

    The Local Government Act and Integrated Planning and Reporting Guidelines set out a number of requirements in relation to community engagement by councils:

    Community Strategic Plan

    Council must:

    • Prepare and implement a Community Engagement Strategy based on social justice principles for engagement with the local community in development the Community Strategic Plan (section 402)
    • As a minimum, the Community Engagement Strategy must identify relevant stakeholder groups within the community and outline methods that will be used to engage each group (Essential Element 1.5, Guidelines)
    • Give due consideration to the expected levels of service expressed by the community when preparing the Community Strategic Plan (Essential Element 1.4, Guidelines)
    • Place the Draft Community Strategic Plan on public exhibition for a period of at least 28 days and comments from the community must be accepted and considered prior to the endorsement of the final Community Strategic Plan (Essential Element 1.6, Guidelines)
    • Review the Community Strategic Plan every four years which includes implementing a Community Engagement Strategy (Essential Element 1.11, Guidelines)

    Delivery Program

    Council must:

    • Consider priorities and expected levels of service expressed by the community during the engagement process for the Community Strategic Plan when preparing its Delivery Program (Essential Element 3.7, Guidelines)
    • Exhibit the draft Delivery Program for public comment for a minimum of 28 days and public submissions must be accepted and considered before the final program is adopted (Essential Element 3.8, Guidelines)
    • Review its Delivery Program each year when preparing the Operational Plan and, where significant amendments are proposed, the Program must be re-exhibited as per Essential Element 3.8 (Essential Element 3.12, Guidelines)

    Operational Plan

    Council must:

    • Publicly exhibit the draft Operational Plan for at least 28 days and public submissions can be made to Council during the period (section 405)
    • Accept and consider any submissions made on the draft Operational Plan before adopting the Operational Plan (section 405)

    Residents and ratepayers

    Councils are encouraged, at a minimum, to work directly with the community throughout the planning process to ensure that their concerns and aspirations are understood and considered. Councils should consider partnering with the community in each aspect of decision making on the Community Strategic Plan, including the development of alternatives and identification of the preferred solution, and implementation and ongoing monitoring of the Plan. Councils can do this by having mechanisms in place for ongoing engagement.

    It is important to remember that older people are not homogenous. Experience, combined with maturity, gives older people great insight. There are ‘younger’ older people, ‘older’ older people and people who are frail aged. The vast majority of older people in NSW live independently in the community whether in their own homes or rented properties with no formal support services, including many of those who are 85 plus years. Older Australians come from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, are Aboriginal and some have disabilities, either physical or intellectual. Older people live in cities, towns and rural remote regions across Australia, they are parents, grandparents, veterans and gay and lesbian.

    Healthy older Australians remain active contributors to society with those over 55 years of age contributing an estimated $75 billion per annum in unpaid caring and volunteering activities, with more than half of this being contributed by people over 65 years. Some older people are retired. However, evidence shows that older people are remaining in the work force up to and past the age of 59 years, and this trend continues to expand.

    In relation to planning for an ageing population, as well as consulting with older people and those who are middle-aged, councils are encouraged to provide opportunities for cross-generational discussion and debate as part of the development of the Community Strategic Plan. Such opportunities provide an opportunity for people in one group of the community to hear first hand what some of the key issues are for another group in the community. This encourages a shared understanding of the issues, and promotes discussion about priorities and resource allocation that councils may find helpful.

    The Council on the Ageing has produced a guide to communicating and consulting with older people which councils may find useful.

    Council staff

    Council staff should also be involved in the development of the Community Strategic Plan. Ageing population affects strategic and statutory planners, infrastructure providers such as traffic and water engineers and parks managers, rates clerks, customer service officers, environmental health officers engaged in regulatory health protection, human resource managers, recreation staff, and library and other community services staff. This might be done through focus groups and/or a cross-council team.


    Under the Integrated Planning and Reporting Guidelines, the Community Strategic Plan should be developed and delivered as a partnership between Council, State agencies, community groups and individuals (Essential Element 1.1).

    State agencies, in particular, have a responsibility to assist Council by providing relevant, available data and participating in the development and implementation of the Plan. To work effectively with State agencies, it is important to build on established relationships and utilise existing forums to identify areas in common and potential partnerships. This might include working on a regional basis, for example through a Regional Organisation of Councils and the NSW Government’s Regional Coordination Program. The Integrated Planning and Reporting Manual provides more advice on working with State agencies.

    There are many examples where NSW councils have successfully partnered with other agencies or spheres of government to implement strategies, particularly to improve the health of an ageing population:

    • A large council in western Sydney is working with the Area Health Service to build up their evidence base for lifelong learning by delivering accessible lifelong learning and fitness programs which promote physical activity and healthy weight among the older population; and delivering ‘Stepping On’ physical activity programs for older people to promote falls prevention among the ageing population in community-based settings.
    • A council on the outskirts of Sydney is developing cultural awareness training for its workforce which will be used in developing resources to connect with elders of the local Aboriginal community. The resources will identify significant lifestyle changes to address growing overweight/obesity related issues such as diabetes, smoking and poor diet in the local Aboriginal community.
    • A group of councils in Sydney have formed an inter-sectoral working party with the Area Health Service to promote awareness about activities to reduce falls, and to develop a series of specially designed exercise class activities to decrease the risk of falls for older people living in the community.
    • A large coastal council is developing partnerships with local Aboriginal Land Councils to deliver a broad range of preventative health initiatives including falls prevention, sustainable exercise programs and community service outreach into local communities.
    • Two coastal councils, working with the Area Health Service and the local university, will develop an easy to use guide to walking in local areas to promote physical activity among the population. Improvements to suburbs with lower ease of walking could create greater opportunities to engage in physical activity. The resource will be used to communicate internally with council departments to promote awareness of walkability.
    • Partnering with the local Arts Centre and Ageing, Disability and Home Care, a large council on the fringe of Sydney is aiming to improve the wellbeing and quality of life of Aboriginal women and men aged 45 years and over who live in the area. By documenting, publishing and presenting the life stories and memories of local Aboriginal women and men, the project aims to increase awareness across generations of the valuable contributions that the area’s older Aboriginal people have made to the community. The project also aims to promote learning, respect and understanding within the wider community, and provide opportunities for older Aboriginal women and men to come together and strengthen connections with younger people in their community. The stories and experiences of the women and men collectively represent a history of a generation of NSW Aboriginal people beyond the borders of cities and towns.
  • Step 4 - Objectives, Strategies and Actions

    Councils are required to develop a Community Strategic Plan (whole of community) covering at least 10 years, and a 4 year Delivery Program and an annual Operational Plan (identifying Council’s responsibilities) setting out objectives, strategies and actions. The Local Government Act, Local Government (General) Regulation and Integrated Planning and Reporting Guidelines set out a number of requirements in relation to the content of the Community Strategic Plan, Delivery Program and Operational Plan:

    Community Strategic Plan

    •Identifies the main priorities and aspirations for the future of the local government area (section 402)
    •Establishes strategic objectives together with strategies to achieve these objectives (section 402)
    •Addresses social, environmental, economic and civic leadership issues in an integrated manner (section 402)
    •Gives due regard to the State Plan and other relevant state and regional plans (section 402)
    •Considers any relevant State or regional draft plans and strategies that are available at the time of preparing the Community Strategic Plan (Essential Element 1.3, Guidelines)
    •Includes a community vision statement; strategic objectives for the community that address social, environmental, economic and civic leadership issues identified by the community (Essential Element 1.7, Guidelines)

    Delivery Program
    •Details the principal activities Council will undertake to achieve the objectives established in the Community Strategic Plan, within the resources available under the Resourcing Strategy (section 404 and Essential Element 3.2, Guidelines)
    •Must address the full range of council operations (Essential Element 3.4, Guidelines)
    •Must allocate high level responsibilities for each action or set of actions (Essential Element 3.5, Guidelines)
    •Must include financial estimates for the 4 year period (Essential Element 3.6, Guidelines)
    •Must consider priorities and expected levels of service expressed by the community during the engagement process for the Community Strategic Plan (Essential Element 3.7, Guidelines)

    Operational Plan
    •Must directly address the actions outlined in the Delivery Program and identify projects, programs or activities that Council will undertake within the financial year towards addressing these actions (section 405 and Essential Element 3.13, Guidelines)
    •Must include the Statement of Revenue Policy (section 405 of Act and clause 201 of Regulation)
    •Must allocate responsibilities for each project, program or activity (Essential Element 3.14, Guidelines)
    •Must include a detailed budget for the activities to be undertaken in that year (Essential Element 3.16, Guidelines)

    Community vision

    The Community Strategic Plan vision can be expressed in many ways. Some councils express their vision in terms of how the LGA will be perceived in the future, others in terms of council roles, and others in terms of key principles which underlie council’s philosophy. From the vision, a council may develop some broad aims for the whole community, some of which are inclusive of older people or an ageing population.

    Community objectives

    Within a Community Strategic Plan, each aim will have objectives. Some of the objectives may be specifically for an ageing population. These objectives may have been originally developed in a separate Ageing Strategy and then imported into a Community Strategic Plan. Some councils have chosen to develop a separate Ageing Strategy even though there is no legislative requirement to do so. Under the new Integrated Planning and Reporting framework, councils can continue to do this if they wish but are strongly encouraged to ensure that there is adequate cross-referencing to ensure that ageing population strategies and actions are integrated with other council strategies and actions. For example, ageing population specific objectives may be extracted from a Community Strategic Plan to form the basis of a separate ageing strategy.

    Integrating objectives, strategies and actions

    The following table uses the quadruple bottom line areas of social, economic, environmental and civic leadership to demonstrate the range of areas where issues relating to an ageing population can be addressed within a Community Strategic Plan. It also includes some examples of how specific objectives relating to an ageing population can fit into the broader vision of the Community Strategic Plan, and examples of the strategies by which those objectives can be achieved. The Delivery Program and Operational Plan can then incorporate specific actions relating to implementing the ageing population strategies.

  • Step 5 - Measuring and Reporting

    Measuring is critical to ensuring that objectives in the Community Strategic Plan are being achieved. Because the Community Strategic Plan is the community’s plan, it is important to keep communities informed about progress on its implementation, including the achievement of its objectives.

    The Local Government Act and Integrated Planning and Reporting Guidelines set out a number of requirements in relation to measuring and reporting by councils:

    Community Strategic Plan

    • Identifies assessment methods for determining whether the objectives are being achieved (Essential Element 1.8, Guidelines)
      •Reviewed every four years (Essential Element 1.9, Guidelines)
    • The review must include a report from the outgoing council on the implementation and effectiveness of the Community Strategic Plan in achieving its social, environmental, economic and civic leadership objectives over the past four years; and a review of the information that informed the original Community Strategic Plan (Essential Element 1.11, Guidelines)
    • A report on the progress on implementation of the Community Strategic Plan must be presented at the final meeting of an outgoing council (Essential Element 1.10, Guidelines)

    Delivery Program

    • Must include a method of assessment to determine the effectiveness of each principal activity in the Delivery Program in achieving the objectives at which the activity is directed (section 404)

    Operational Plan

    • Must identify suitable measures to determine the effectiveness of the projects, programs and activities undertaken (Essential Element 3.15, Guidelines)

    Annual Report

    • Must be prepared within 5 months of the end of the financial year (section 428)
    • Must outline Council’s achievements in implementing its Delivery Program (section 428)
    • In the year of the Council’s ordinary election, must also include an outline of achievements in implementing the Community Strategic Plan and a report as to the state of the environment in the local government area in relation to the objectives for the environment established by the Community Strategic Plan (section 428)
    • Must contain Council’s audited financial statements

    The Local Government (General) Regulation (clause 217) also sets out requirements for the Annual Report (see the Integrated Planning and Reporting Guidelines)

    It is up to each Council to determine the methods it will use to assess performance in relation to the Community Strategic Plan, Delivery Program and Operational Plan.

    One method of assessing performance is to use outcome performance indicators. Some examples of possible indicators that are relevant to an ageing population are presented below.

    Personal health and wellbeing

    • Self reported health
    • Feeling part of the community
    • Social support
    • Volunteering

    Personal and community safety

    • Crime statistics
    • Perceptions of safety

    Sustainable natural and built environments

    • Transport accessibility
    • Participation in arts and cultural activities
    • Citizen engagement

    The WHO checklist of essential age-friendly city features can be used to monitor and assess Council’s performance in relation to an ageing population. The checklist covers the following areas:

    • Outdoor spaces and buildings
    • Transportation
    • Housing
    • Social participation
    • Respect and social inclusion
    • Civic participation and employment
    • Communication and information
    • Community and health services

    General information about developing community or outcome indicators is available in the Community Indicators Report on the Integrated Planning and Reporting webpage