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New Report Shows Changing Face of Older NZers

New Report Shows Changing Face of Older New Zealanders

The number of people aged 65 years and over has doubled over the last 50 years and is expected to double again in the next 50 years. By 2051, older people will have exceeded the one million mark and will account for one out of every four New Zealanders. These findings are contained in Older New Zealanders: 65 and beyond, a new report released today by Statistics New Zealand.

The report examines the growth of the older population in New Zealand and looks at how their circumstances have changed in recent decades.

Much of the debate around the increasing size of the older population has focused on the negative impacts, particularly the capacity of New Zealand's social welfare and health systems to cope with the growth. The report shows that most older people are fit and well, and an increasing proportion are playing an active role in society well beyond the age of 65 years.

Some of the biggest changes in the lives of older people in recent years have been in the area of paid employment, where a growing number are continuing to work beyond the age of 65 years.

This is reflected in the employment rate for those aged 65–69, which has more than doubled since 1986. Today almost one in four older people in this age group are in paid employment, compared with around one in 10 in 1986.

Many older people today are also active in the community. In the 2001 Census, one-quarter of women aged 65–69 and about one-fifth of men reported that they had been actively involved in voluntary work through an organisation in the four weeks preceding the census. At ages 70–74, 22 percent of women and 19 percent of men were actively involved in voluntary work.

Older people also contribute to the community through the provision of financial support to community organisations on a regular basis. Around 40 percent of older people provide regular financial support to community organisations, five times the proportion providing regular financial support to family members.

Older New Zealanders: 65 and beyond provides a comprehensive overview of the situation of older people in New Zealand. The report covers the demographic characteristics of older people, their participation in the labour market, their income and living standards, their health status and their participation in family and community activities.

Key findings from the report:

The most rapid growth in older people over the next 40 to 50 years will occur among those aged 85 and over. This group is projected to make up 22 percent of older people in 2051, up from 9 percent in 2001.

Mäori aged 65 and over have the highest employment rate of all ethnic groups, at 15 percent. The average for all ethnic groups is 11 percent.

In 2001, 45 percent of people aged 65 and over were either self-employed or an employer of others. This was twice the rate of people aged 15–64 years.

Nineteen percent of couples (where one of the partners was aged 65 or over) and 12 percent of non-partnered older people received income from a private superannuation scheme in 2001.

In 2001, the median net worth of non-partnered older people aged 65 and over was $125,000 compared with a combined net worth of $212,000 for those who were partnered. Women aged 65 and over can expect to live, on average, a further 19.9 years, and men of the same age, a further 16.5 years. Women and men can expect to live independently for over half (57 percent) of their remaining life after 65.

The report is available free of charge from the Statistics New Zealand website:

Brian Pink

Government Statistician

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