Earlier this month, Minister for Seniors Dr Ayesha Verrall launched the Better Later Life Action Plan, which sets out a pathway for a better future for older New Zealanders.
“Better Later Life – He Oranga Kaumātua is our strategy for ensuring New Zealanders can lead valued, connected and fulfilling lives as they age,” says Ayesha Verrall.
“Soon after work began on an Action Plan for He Oranga Kaumātua, COVID-19 struck. The pandemic has shaped our plan, because we know the significant impact COVID-19 has had on our older population, and the need to focus on actions that will help us to build back better, while contributing to New Zealand’s recovery.
“This strategy is also about planning for the opportunities and challenges that come with an ageing population. By 2034 we expect there will be around 1.2 million people aged 65 and over in New Zealand; just over a fifth of our population.
“The Better Later Life Action Plan is a major step in delivering our vision. It sets the Government’s commitments for implementing the strategy over the next three years – with a particular focus on employment, housing and digital inclusion,” says Ayesha Verrall.
So what does the plan promise?
A major aim for the Plan is to ensure all older people are financially secure and that they can choose to continue working as they age (or not). Ensuring all older workers are treated fairly, recognised for contributing expertise and skills, and have access to training and upskilling.
Ayesha Verrall says: “older workers deserve to be supported to use their skills and experience, and we want to see suitable housing that meets the diverse needs of older people. The plan also aims to empower older people to embrace technology, while ensuring those who aren’t online are still able to access essential services.
Key action points in the plan include:
- developing an approach to help older entrepreneurs establish sustainable businesses.
- promoting the Mature Workers toolkit
- advising on employment service eligibility for people over 65.
- leading good practice in the employment and support of older workers.
- researching age discrimination in the workplace
“This work has already begun, including a pilot for older entrepreneurs, research on shared living arrangements, support for Māori to manage and develop housing for whānau as they age, and the successful Digital Literacy Training for Seniors programme,” says Ayesha Verrall.
Making sure people can age in a safe and healthy place they can call home – and where possibly, independently – is another aim of the Plan. Some key points to action here include:
- supporting older people to make informed decisions about housing.
- assessing Retirement Commission recommendations on the Retirement Villages Framework.
- supporting iwi and Māori to manage and develop housing for whānau.
- increasing the supply of public housing.
- analysing the housing needs for New Zealand’s ageing population.
- strengthening public housing support for older tenants.
This is a particularly hot topic at the moment, as the digital divide in this country seems to be increasing as many of our core services (like our banks and postal service) continue to decrease their physical presence. This is an incredibly big issue and requires more than simply ‘training older people to use technology’ but some of the action pints include:
- ensuring government services are accessible for people who are not online
- seeking options to address the affordability of devices and internet connections for older people
- coordinating efforts to address digital inclusion, including for older people, as part of developing a Digital Strategy for Aotearoa.
Any strategy that aims to improve the lives of older people is one that we see huge benefit in. We’ll be watching over the next three years as the Action Plan gets rolled out.