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A draft strategy by the Government which aims to make New Zealand a better place for people to get older was launched earlier this year, called Better Later Life. The public consultation on its contents has recently closed, with the aim being to release the final strategy by the end of 2019.

Prior to the release of Better Later Life it had been close to 20 years since the last ageing strategy was published. At that time there were nearly 50,000 people in New Zealand aged 85 and over. Fast forward to 2018 and that figure was 87,000 and by 2034 an estimated quarter of the population, 1.2million, will be aged 65 and older.

The Government hopes to handle this by reassessing how it thinks about old age and retirement. Minister for Seniors Tracy Martin said it will be ‘absolutely crucial’ we have systems in place to support this.

“People are not only living longer, they tend to be healthier longer – this ‘gift of longevity’ means we need to rethink notions around old age. The strategy takes a fresh look at what is required to ensure everyone gets the chance to live well as they get older,” Martin said.

Two key areas identified by the draft strategy were supporting seniors in the workplace and promoting housing options appropriate for older people.

In a nationwide consultation about what New Zealanders want for the future the areas of most importance were having financial and economic security, access to health and social services, secure and affordable homes and opportunities to connect and participate in the community.

Currently 70 per cent of people aged 65+ own their home. However, home ownership rates are dropping as you look at rates amongst those in their early Forties, so this downward trend in ownership will put pressure on the rental market in future years. It will be important with the expected numbers of over 65-year-olds to ensure demand can be met for affordable, appropriate rentals as well as do what is possible to ensure that those who wish to, are able to remain in their homes as they advance in years.

Most older people want to stay in their homes. Although a slight majority of older people have a period of care in very late life, most older people live most of their late years in their homes. They also spend more time in their homes, especially if they are not in paid work, so their homes need to be functional and affordable to run. We can expect then that home adjustments will continue to be an ongoing theme across the country, whether that be in terms of making changes to the number of dwellings in a residence, or renovations which ensure the property is best suited to the needs and lifestyle of those who live there or by adding products such as home lifts which make it easier for older people to move between floors when the stairs become challenging.

Future proofing will likely continue to be an area of great interest for seniors. Any efforts which can facilitate New Zealanders to remain in their preferred home, connected with their communities and families will be key. Domestic lifts, also, equally provide a great way of making a home fully-functional for use in later life. Future proofing the home with a home lift offer added benefits such as acting as a dumbwaiter to carry awkward and heavy items such as luggage and suitcases, making a domestic lift an ideal alternative to a stairlift.

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