Bruce loves his busy life

He retired five years ago but Dapto's Bruce Lloyd has too much going on to sit down and watch the telly for hours a day.

"To be honest, I rarely watch television these days, I just don't get time," the 65-year-old said.

Since retiring from the steelworks, Mr Lloyd has become active in the community. Not only is he secretary of the Dapto Seniors Club, he's a member of Wollongong council's local neighbourhood forum. He also teaches seniors how to use computers.

Mr Lloyd is an example of the other side of the debate about what effect an ageing population will have on the region. While much is heard about the burden the rising number of senior citizens will have on the health-care system and changes in city planning that they will require, little is heard of the positives.

They include the likelihood that many seniors will remain healthier for longer and are likely to volunteer for a range of activities that could benefit the community.

"They do anyway, don't they?" Mr Lloyd said. "Even if they don't take part in community things, they certainly help within the family."

Mr Lloyd said it was hard to attract new members to Dapto Seniors and thinks perhaps it's because many in their 60s don't feel like "senior citizens".

"That's certainly right, I don't feel that way either," Mr Lloyd admits. "Until I look in the mirror, I still think I'm 25. Or if I try to pick something up off the ground - that's also a bit of a giveaway."

Illawarra Retirement Trust chief executive Nieves Murray sees seniors as "untapped gold", suggesting business could tap into their work skills on a casual basis as they also are an asset due to the volunteer and other unpaid work they do in the community.

"Seniors broadly are healthier, they're contributing ... they're adding value to the communities," Ms Murray said. "The health burden component of it is a quite contracted period of time where they may require intensive health intervention - but that's always been the case. It's just happening later now."

She said rather than putting the focus on funding the health system, working out how to develop communities to best serve the growing seniors population was the way to go.

"Our cities need to start considering how to plan for a community that enhances the independence of older people.

"So that includes outdoor space, transport, housing for seniors, access to information, a secure environment and how they can be engaged in the workforce."

This is one of the focuses of the Property Council of Australia's Make My City Work campaign.

The campaign aimed to make "an informed change in city planning", Property Council Illawarra chairman David Laing said.

"The big thing I've seen is the idea that seniors continue to work, so it's about having more accessible employment areas, which might include reduced working hours," he said.

The Property Council Illawarra will hold a Grey Expectations lunch on November 7, on Wollongong's ageing populace: www.propertyoz. com.au/nsw for more details.

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