In January the Office for Seniors (OFS) published a summary of the submissions that they had received in the second half of 2018, with the title “Developing a new strategy to prepare for an ageing population”. These were submissions in response to a discussion document of the same name, released in June, which looked at changes since the 2001 Positive Ageing Strategy 2001 was published.
There were 469 submissions in all, of which 367 were from individuals, couples or anonymously; 102 submissions were from organisations, whānau and groups. The latter are listed in the 2019 document, but there is no list of the other group of submitters (as far as I can see on the OFS web site). Ideas and recommendations from the submissions will be considered as the OFS develops the draft strategy for an ageing population. (It is not suggested that “Positive Ageing Strategy II” will be its title).
Because many submissions covered several areas, the major themes were identified by the number of times the topic was mentioned. I am looking at the (10 ) main themes and, very briefly commenting on what seemed to be the main issues which submitters have raised.
Housing clearly was the dominant theme with 426 mentions. The main concerns were not enough housing options for older people and not enough appropriate housing. There were special mentions of issues for renters – in terms of insecurity and affordability. Declining home ownership rates were seen as a crucial trend. And there were some concerns about retirement villages.
Health came next, in terms of number of mentions – 386. The cost of services, especially those which do not attract subsidies for older people (dental, spectacles) led the list of concerns along with access to services and long waiting times. There were calls for free health checks and more preventive services. There was also concern about the quality of residential care and the availability of carers – what should be the role of family carers?
Third came Financial Security, with 323 mentions. There was a wide variety of mainly familiar concerns, mostly around NZ Superannuation – its adequacy in relation to a rising cost of living (should it be a Living Wage?). Should there be targeted add-on benefits for food etc.? Some submitters considered entitlement to NZS was unfair for people in particular circumstances – again well-rehearsed arguments. A newer point was a call to government to explore the availability of annuities.
Work – both paid and unpaid – received 240 mentions, noting that this was linked to both financial security and health. There were calls for better valuing of older workers and volunteers. Points about the need to challenge stereotypes and ageing; about the provision of flexible hours and conditions and retraining for older people have frequently been raised (including in this blog). I liked the idea of the IRD providing special help for older people who are likely to have income from several sources.
Social connection and participation came next, with 213 mentions. This centered around loneliness, with calls for more community and intergenerational programmes; to remove barriers to life-long education. Spirituality came under this heading.
Transport came sixth, with 189 mentions. The common themes of affordability and access predominate, with special mention of the impact of losing driving ability. Safety came in here, especially for older people on footpaths. (Safety as a separate theme gained only 62 mentions, mainly regarding elder abuse, scams and crime generally).
Technology in relation to older people has not received a lot of attention, gaining 135 mentions. Technology has both benefits and negatives for older people, who may have limited capability and access in this area. Where agencies offer only on-line access to their services this can lead to deprivation and isolation.
Attitudes (122 mentions) was a feature of the original Positive Ageing Strategy. These include both public attitudes (including media depictions) which may be patronising or offensive and which should rather be steered towards value and respect for older people. But the attitudes of older people themselves may not always be positive. The important point is to recognise diversity, for example to value the role of kaumatua and older people from other cultures.
Ageing and retirement (80 mentions) is surprisingly low (to me) on this list. Submitters saw the concept of retirement as negative and out-of-date, as do I. But the comments mainly centred of planning for later life and the intention not to stop contributing. The emphasis should be on life stages and how they are changing.
I wonder if my readers found anything surprising about these results.
 The scope of a new strategy and governance theme was in the top 10 most mentioned themes, with 150 mentions. I have not covered this theme in my blog.
In many face to face forums on ageing, the top priorities have often been 1. access to information and 2. the accessibility of the information. This is where surveys are not always an accurate reflection of the needs of the intended audience – the intended audience does not know about them. Organisational responses are not always a good reflection on the needs of the aged. They (often) reflect an interpretation of issues by a younger person.