Story: Older people
Older New Zealanders report the highest level of happiness with their lives of all age groups. They may earn less money than others, but find their satisfaction in family, friends and the time to pursue their interests. Older people in the 2000s have lived longer on average than people at any time in New Zealand’s history.
Full story by Peggy Koopman-Boyden
Main image: Red Hat meeting
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Older New Zealanders
Older people are defined as those 65 years of age and above. People between 65 and 80 are sometimes called ‘young-old’, and people over 80 are called ‘old-old’. 55% of older people are women. Most older people are European – 89% in 2006.
The number of older New Zealanders is rapidly increasing. In 2009, 12.5% of the population was over 65, but by 2031, 20% will be over 65. There will be more people who need pensions, and smaller numbers of people working and paying tax.
Older people’s lives
Most older people retire at 65. Until 1999 this was compulsory. Older people have lower average incomes than other age groups because many live on a pension paid by the government.
The majority of older people live in their own homes in urban areas. The house is usually their only asset, but some have shares or savings, which can add to their income. Some older people live in retirement villages or granny flats. When they can no longer look after themselves they move into rest homes. The government pays for their care if they cannot afford it.
Older people in the early 2000s have lived longer on average than any previous generation. Elderly people often suffer from ill health, with conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis or cancer. They receive relatively low-cost medical care, and hospital is free.
Widowhood is common amongst older people, and many experience the death of old friends.
Many older people are grandparents – grandchildren are often described as a gift. In some cultures older people pass down traditions to their grandchildren or mokopuna. Older Māori men and women are important tribal leaders.
In 2009 a third of older people did volunteer work. They also joined community organisations like sports clubs – in 2008, 82% participated in at least one sport or recreational activity.
Some older people travel round the country or overseas. Some stay in touch with family overseas via the internet.
Older people’s politics
As the number of older New Zealanders grows, they are likely to become a powerful bloc of voters. There is no political party representing them, but some parties such as New Zealand First have courted their votes. New Zealand First introduced the Supergold card which provides older people with subsidies on transport and other services.
Older people’s political concerns include superannuation (their pension), elder neglect and age discrimination. Grey Power is one of the groups that speak out about such issues.