The Positive Ageing Strategy was introduced in 2001. That does not seem that long ago, but our world is a very different place today. Our population has grown by over a million, and the number of people aged 65+ has increased by almost two-thirds. Three quarters of Kiwis owned their own home, now it is under two-thirds.
At the turn of the century the average life expectancy for someone turning 65 was in the early to mid-70s. Someone turning 65 today can expect to live into their mid- to late-80s and often longer.
And just think about how much technology has changed our lives. The 2001 census was the first to include a question about household access to the internet and fax machines. It would be another few years before Facebook entered the public domain or Apple launched the iPhone. Remember when people rode on a bus without a mobile phone in front of them?
Today, around 750,000 New Zealanders have had their 65th birthday. By 2036 this is likely to be over 1.2 million people. Many of the next generation of older people will be healthier, live longer, be more skilled and more educated. They are much more likely to remain in the workforce – and to want to.
At the most basic level, people’s needs will be the same: a warm dry home, financial security, health, safety, and a community to belong to. But we will be a much more diverse society, with an increasing proportion of older people who are Māori, Pacific or Asian. In our regions, communities will need to anticipate not only a growing older population, but fewer younger people than previous generations.
We need to plan for this. If, in a little under 20 years, people aged 65+ are to make up almost a quarter of our population, the implications for our economy, workforce, healthcare and government services will be significant. We need more than a “whole-of-government approach.”
We need everyone – government, local government, non-governmental organisations, communities, whānau, family, individuals, and businesses – to work together. I can’t help but be excited by the opportunities this change in our population will bring. But we must be prepared. This is why we need a new Strategy to assist us to respond effectively to our ageing population, and why I am committed to a national conversation about how we can do this well.
This document is just the start. It outlines what we think some of the issues are. But the aim isn’t to tell you what we believe or think should happen. It is to find out what you think, and to understand your priorities.