Seniors Minister Tracey Martin has released a discussion document and opened consultation on a new positive ageing strategy.

“The Government is going develop a new Positive Ageing Strategy to shape the policies needed to adjust to an ageing population and to help older New Zealanders live well,” the Minister said.

The current Positive Ageing Strategy was created in 2001 and the last action plan based on the strategy was completed in 2010.

“Like the rest of the developed world, New Zealand has an ageing population,” says Minister Martin. “That’s great news in that more of us are living longer, healthier lives than ever before. But it also means there are significant things we have to consider as a country.”

Martin told Stuff that nothing is off the table.

“All conversations are going to have to be open, aren’t they? If you take the immigration conversation, it’s been interesting the one that Japan is having. They have basically a zero-immigration policy – so they have been looking at robotics to help keep elderly people in their homes.

“At the end of the day, we are going to have to look at all solutions. But even that’s a bit freaky. Sounds like a sci-fi movie.”

Currently there are around 725,000 people aged over 65 in New Zealand. By 2028 there will be one million and by 2038, combined with the low birth rate, seniors will make up almost a quarter of the total population.

The positive ageing strategy announcement coincides with the publication of an ageing workforce white paper titled Act Now, Age Later by the Employers and Manufacturers Association.

Seniors currently make up around 6.2 per cent of the workforce. By 2033 the number of seniors at work will nearly double and they will make up 10.6 per cent 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.

“We need a strategy to ensure that we are in a good position to deal with these demographic shifts and the wider changes that are happening in society, and that are going to happen,” says Martin.

“Along with having a positive environment for the individual people represented in these figures, our ageing population has implications for employment and housing, health and aged care, social services and our economy.”

Martin says how we respond to our ageing population will have a huge impact on New Zealand’s economic growth.

“Not only will seniors be a vital part of a 21st-century workplace, but in the next 20 years our country will turn to them more and more for the contribution they make as taxpayers, carers, consumers, volunteers, and employees.”

The Minister said for the strategy to work it needed to look ahead and consultation needed to engage people from across New Zealand and from diverse backgrounds.

“We need the views of today’s seniors, but we must also hear from the next generation of seniors – people aged in their 40s, 50s and 60s now.”

The consultation is open from 29 June to 24 August. Following the consultation, officials will draft the new strategy and an action plan. A second round of consultation on the proposed strategy will take place in early 2019.

The discussion document and information on the consultation can be found on the SuperSeniors website: superseniors.msd.govt.nz/ageingpopulation

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