New Zealand’s population is ageing, and the level of need amongst our older generation is increasing as a result of many and diverse factors, not the least of which are the declining rates of home ownership, the rising cost of rental accommodation and price hikes in the overall cost of living. New Zealand is facing a growing tide of people going into retirement with little or no savings and still renting, and there is also an escalating problem of extreme hardship faced by the elderly.
The following snapshot illustrates just some of the issues increasingly affecting older people today:
- The numbers of people receiving both New Zealand Superannuation and an Accommodation Supplement payment is growing by 2,000 per year.
- With over 37,000 single, 65+ person households in the Auckland region, there are clear indicators that single person households are vulnerable in terms of costs and available financial support.
- Service providers and older renters identify that the biggest issue facing older renters is unaffordable rents. Logically, if people are forced to spend more than they can afford on rent, the funds available for other costs to maintain healthy living will suffer. So we will see greater numbers of older people living in housing-related poverty.
- The proportion of older owner-occupiers will continue to fall, given the reduced rates of home ownership now found among people in their early forties, meaning that there will be significant need in the future for affordable housing for the elderly.
- Longer life expectancy, coupled with more people living alone, mean loneliness and social isolation are expected to increase.
- The consequences of loneliness and social isolation are severe and can lead to poor physical and mental health, high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases, sleep deprivation, the need to move into aged residential care, premature mortality and higher health care and societal costs.
- Financial hardship amongst older people is not only increasing currently, but is likely to continue to do so in coming years.
The Selwyn Foundation’s charitable Mission is therefore just as relevant now as it was in the 1950s. Older people today are facing the same pressing issues as in earlier times, all of which have a significant impact not only on wellbeing, but also precipitate the early onset of long-term conditions, frailty and reduced life expectancy.