12 September 2018
The Government's plan to help retirees age positively
Consultation on the Government’s new strategy for an ageing population a.k.a the “Positive Ageing Strategy” has been extended beyond its original deadline.
It turns out New Zealanders have had a fair bit to say about how they want to live as they grow older, and they’re not quite done.
Minister for Seniors Tracey Martin is pleased by the level of interest.
“A few organisations have asked for a week extension - basically they wanted to be able to put in substantive responses, which is a good sign. We said at the start we wanted to hear from a variety of age groups, not just older people, and that’s what happened. Around 470 written submissions from individuals and groups have been received by the Office for Seniors.”
Originally set down from 29th of June to 24th of August the consultation has engaged a wide range of people from across New Zealand.
“We haven’t worked through all of the feedback yet, but core areas raised have been: financial security; housing; public transport; social inclusion; respect and ageism; employment; health, care and support. I don’t think any of those things are a surprise.”
Currently there are around 725,000 people aged over 65. By 2028 there will be 1 million and by 2038, seniors will make up almost a quarter of the total population.
The senior population is also increasingly diverse. By 2036 the number of Māori aged 65+ will almost triple from 2013 figures (to 105,000), the senior Pacific population will also triple (to 45,000), and there will be five times as many Asian NZers aged 65+ (164,000).
Minister Martin says how we respond to our ageing and changing population will have a huge impact on New Zealand's economic growth.
“The point of the strategy is to ensure that New Zealand is thinking about the implications so that we can plan and have the right policies in place.”
Seniors currently make up around 6.2% of the workforce. By 2033 the number of seniors at work will nearly double and they will make up 10.6% of the workforce.
It is estimated that by 2061 seniors will contribute $31 billion to the economy through paid and unpaid work, up from $6.5 billion today.
“Obviously there’s a lot we have to grapple with, but one of the things that struck me when I attended one of the sessions on the forum in Gore, was a comment that we shouldn’t use the word ‘retirement’ anymore as it’s not really what people do. As they get older they transition between different types of work, some of it unpaid. That’s an accurate description of what older people do – they contribute real value in and out of the workplace. How we allow that to happen more easily is a really important challenge.”
So what is ‘positively ageing’ shaping up to look like?
“Some of the early themes from the submissions are that people want sufficient income to have a good life, and of course they want good health and to keep connections with the people that matter to them. They’ve also said they want to be treated with respect, work if they wish and want it recognised that the older population are diverse.
Generally, it’s about people being able to live well as they age. That will mean something different to every individual, but there are certain things like decent housing, a decent income and the chance to be part of society that are a bottom line and that we can support with a well-thought-through ageing strategy.”
As part of the consultation the government invited a range of experts to write on topics of their choice.
Science and technology journalist Peter Griffin offers a detailed description of aged care in the future where robotic caregivers will monitor pensioners’ medicine intake, launch video calls to friends and even offer companionship themselves.
“Predictive sensors, the high-tech equivalent of a medical alarm bracelet, will know when someone’s sleeping patterns or the register of their cough suggest they are unwell and in need of medical assistance. Remote care workers will beam in to check on the elderly via video calls and even holographs. Home automation systems will increasingly do the cleaning, cooking and gardening for us, and within a decade, autonomous vehicles will render a driver licence irrelevant.”
And according to Stephen Neville, Associate Professor and Head of Nursing and Co-Director AUT Centre for Active Ageing, this is what we should expect an age-friendly community to look like in 20 years time.
“Social housing will be a key feature, with a variety of housing options available to foster inter-generational ageing opportunities. Older people will no longer be chastised and branded as a drain on community resources. Central and local government, as well as businesses, will value the contributions older people make to society, and the health and social care expenditures for older people will be viewed as an investment rather than a cost. The elderly will be recognised for the social and economic contribution they make to the communities they live in.”
Once all the submissions are received, officials will draft the new Positive Ageing strategy and an action plan. A second round of consultation on the proposed strategy will take place in early 2019.
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