Key areas for action

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Key areas for action
Ngā Kaupapa Matua hei whai atu

The strategy identifies five key areas, and within each what we want to achieve and what needs to happen to do this.

Achieving financial security and economic participation
Te whai taituarā ahumoni me te whai wāhi ki te ōhanga

Financial security as we age depends on a number of factors, including participation in paid work, sufficiency of income and levels of savings. Older people participate in our economy as consumers, taxpayers and investors. Meeting the needs of our ageing population also has economic impacts for New Zealand too.

Financial security

Our income and assets can affect our overall health and wellbeing, as well as our life expectancy. Our earning history can also significantly impact our financial security as we age.

Being financially prepared and having the knowledge and skills to manage our resources is important – people who are better prepared are likely to enjoy a better standard of living and will be less likely to require additional support. With people living longer than ever before, it is increasingly important we prepare for our later life earlier.

NZ Super provides a universal basic income for New Zealand citizens and permanent residents aged 65+ who meet residential requirements. NZ Super is provided to assure a basic standard of living for older New Zealanders. It is one of the government’s key contributions to the financial security of those aged 65+.

KiwiSaver is a voluntary, work-based savings initiative to help people save for retirement and includes contributions from employers and an annual contribution from government. For some, KiwiSaver will provide increased financial security. How well we are able to save and then use our financial assets may affect how well placed we are in later life.

Economic participation and impacts

The increasing participation of older people in the workforce, spending and working more, will contribute to and benefit the economy and mean additional government revenue. Older people working will also have health benefits and help regions and sectors to address workforce shortages.

As our population continues to age and numbers of older people increase, central government will need to spend more on NZ Super and health care costs. We also expect to see increased numbers of financially vulnerable older people needing
extra support, including housing support.

Local government faces increasing demand for infrastructure and services, along with pressure on the affordability of rates as numbers of older people on fixed incomes increase.


Older workers have valuable skills and can help to address New Zealand’s workforce shortage. Numbers of older people employed or who are self-employed are predicted to increase, as many continue to work.

Older people will be increasingly needed in the workforce in the future. However, current trends show that some older workers who lose their jobs take longer to re-enter the workforce, which impacts on wellbeing and how well placed they are
in later life.

Workplaces need to adapt to people remaining in the workforce longer by offering options like flexible working arrangements or supporting the upskilling or retraining of older workers where necessary to adapt to new work situations. Ageism and negative stereotypes can be an issue too – affecting both younger and older workers.

Older people are adept at gaining new skills and knowledge, so opportunities for upskilling and retraining will mean older people can continue to pick these up. Older workers also offer valuable opportunities for mentoring younger workers.

Some older workers in physical roles may find it challenging to work until reaching the age of eligibility for NZ Super and/or need support to retrain for less physically challenging roles, or require greater levels of support at an earlier age.

Different approaches to support will be required for those with higher or complex needs and disabilities.

What we want to achieve What needs to happen
All people have sufficient income, assets and other support to enjoy an adequate standard of living as they age.
  • People are saving for later life earlier.
  • Information is provided on the impact of different options on retirement savings, including time out of the workforce.
  • Supplementary assistance is available to help with basic needs when required, and those who are entitled to this are receiving it.
New Zealand is financially prepared for an ageing population.
  • Central and local government undertake timely planning to respond to the financial and economic impacts of an ageing population.

Older workers are treated fairly, recognised for contributing expertise and skills, and have access to training and upskilling.
  • Employers consider and respond to the impacts of the ageing workforce on their business and future workforce needs.
  • Workplaces are hiring/retaining older workers – creating working environments that provide support through upskilling, retraining, flexible work environments, and providing opportunities for learning and development regardless of age.
As people age, they can work if they wish or need to.
  • Ageism, discrimination, negative stereotypes and attitudes towards older workers are confronted.
  • Older workers who are looking for work, wanting to be self-employed or need to upskill or retrain are supported.
Those who cannot work up to the age of NZ Super entitlement due to their health or a disability are provided with support.
  • Financial assistance is available to help with basic needs for those who cannot work, and those who need it are getting it.

Promoting healthy ageing and improving access to services
Te hāpai i te toiora kaumātautanga te whai wāhi hoki ki ngā ratonga hauora

Being in good health, both physically and mentally, will help us lead a better later life and be able to do the things we want to do. We can contribute to this in the way we lead our lives. We need to know that services are available, and we can access them when we need to.

The Healthy Ageing Strategy, the New Zealand Health Strategy, and the New Zealand Disability Strategy set the health priorities for people as they age. Factors linked to these strategies, including access to social services to support wellbeing, are considered here.

Older people are carers too – in 2019 approximately 16 percent of carers are aged 65+. The Carers Strategy Action Plan 2019-2023 is currently under development. It will contain actions that will directly impact the older population as receivers and providers of care. The Better Later Life Action Plan will be informed by the Carers’ Strategy Action Plan.

Health services

Being in good health will help people live a better later life. The Healthy Ageing Strategy notes that an increasingly older population will mean steadily increasing health care needs, higher rates of long-term chronic health conditions and disabilities requiring regular support.

The Healthy Ageing Strategy recognises that inequities in health status need to be reduced, in particular for Māori, Pacific peoples, migrant and refugee communities, and people with disabilities. When designing and implementing accessible health and social services, it is important to take into account our diverse circumstances and needs.

Factors such as financial security, social participation and health events and/or choices in younger years can impact health in later years. The quality of the built environment also contributes to improving peoples health.

Social services

There is a wide range of social service providers for older people. This can mean people may not know what services are available and/or how to access them. In some more remote locations, there may be limited availability or access to services.
The reasons why people don’t access support are complex and often depend on peoples individual circumstances.

This means service delivery models will need to be innovative and adapt to the needs of New Zealands diverse ageing population. Social service agencies will need to take a person and whānau-centred approach to providing services for older people. This will avoid gaps or duplication, making it clearer where to get help when there are multiple points of contact.

Culturally appropriate and whānau-centred services

The way services are delivered affects how well people are supported. To ensure services are effective and reach the people needing them, services need to be designed and delivered so they work for their users.

For Māori, a whānau-centred approach is important when addressing issues for individuals. Kaumātua need access to whānau-centred social, health and support services to maintain their cultural links, and significant obligations and connections
that sustain their whānau, hapū and iwi.

It is important for other cultural groups to access services appropriate for their needs too. When social services are designed and delivered for older people, their family/whānau and cultural context (including language) need to be considered.

What we want to achieve What needs to happen
People enter later life as fit and healthy as possible.
  • People stay as fit and healthy as they can throughout their lives.
  • People recognise and understand that all of the key areas for action in this strategy impact on health outcomes for older people.
People have equitable access to the health and social services and the support they need to live and age well.
  • Continue to implement the Healthy Ageing Strategy 2016, the New Zealand Disability Strategy 2016 and the Carers Strategy Action Plan.
  • Access to health (including mental health) and social services for vulnerable population groups is improved.
  • Government and social sector agencies and communities work together to improve access and co-ordinate assistance for socially isolated and other vulnerable older people.
  • Initiatives are developed that better address the physical and social determinants of health.
  • The needs of older people are addressed when social services are designed and delivered.
  • Diversity is explicitly recognised, and sufficient flexibility is built into the design of services to allow for this.
A whānau-centred approach is taken to the design and delivery of health and social services.
  • Those designing and delivering services recognise the importance of co-design, and include a whānau-centred partnership approach, while not losing an individuals view.

Creating diverse housing choices and options
Te whakarite kōwhiringa kāinga rerekē

Having a secure place to live is fundamental to achieving wellbeing. Most of us prefer remaining independent, living in a place of our choice that is safe and connected to our families, whānau, and communities.

Ageing in the community safely and independently can improve our physical and mental health, wellbeing and social connectedness as we age. It can also reduce the amount of time that people require residential care services.

Housing choices

Many people want to age in the communities they already live in, while others wish to move closer to family and whānau, or to move to retirement villages or locations that offer the lifestyle and security they want.

Limited availability of functional (built to universal design principles) and affordable housing with good access to services can affect the choices we have about where we live. In many regions, new builds are designed for young families, even though there is a shortage of dwellings suitable for older people.

The high costs of new homes, retirement village units, and accessibility limit people’s choices.

Housing availability

The demand for affordable rental and shared housing in New Zealand is growing. Renters may face rent increases, uncertainty of tenure, lower quality housing, and homes with limited accessibility. There is likely to be increased demand for housing assistance.

There are particular obstacles in securing housing for those who are particularly vulnerable, including those with multiple disadvantages (such as having been in prison).

The size and mix of our housing stock will need to change to provide homes for a diverse ageing population. A variety of innovative housing options and interventions to address homelessness are emerging, but not at the pace required.

What we want to achieve What needs to happen
People can age in a place they call home, safely and, where possible, independently.
  • A variety of functional and affordable housing is available with good access to public transport and services to accommodate the diversity of people as they age.
  • The benefits of universal design are considered in new builds so housing is accessible, safe and functional for all life stages.
  • Tools are available to help us consider housing options as we age.
  • There is sufficient public and community housing suitable for older people, with appropriate support.
  • Effective support is provided for older people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
  • There are adequate protections provided for older tenants.
  • Cultural diversity is considered in the design and provision of housing.

Enhancing opportunities for participation and social connection
Kia maha ngā ara tūhonohono

As well as participation and social connection, we must address loneliness, valuing and respecting older people, supported decision-making, safety, digital inclusion, responding to change, volunteering, and recognising and responding to diversity.

Supporting people to participate in their community

Being connected and having meaningful relationships with family, whānau, and our wider community is critically important for our wellbeing as we age. Older people can experience loneliness and social isolation, which contribute to poor mental and physical health outcomes. There are many reasons for this, which means different approaches are needed to address these issues.

Paid work; volunteering; participating in sports and hobbies; the arts and attending classes to learn new things (lifelong learning); spending time with friends, family and whānau; and being valued all contribute to social connectedness.

A lot of older people live alone, and we expect this number to increase. While this in itself does not mean loneliness or social isolation, the risk of this is higher.

For Māori, isolation from whānau, hapū and iwi can lead to cultural disconnection and may mean a lack of access to social and cultural support. Isolation can also occur for others who were not born in New Zealand or do not speak English.

The way we design our community environments can also have an important impact on whether people are socially connected.

What we want to achieve What needs to happen
As we age, we remain socially connected and actively participate in our communities.
  • People are supported to plan for their later years from as early as possible – thinking about what they want to do, the activities that could help build and maintain their social connections as they transition out of paid work.
  • Uptake of Age friendly Aotearoa New Zealand, which includes a focus on social connection and participation, is increased.
  • The value of volunteering, networking and paid work for people as they age is promoted.
  • Increase the accessibility of the built environment for older people with disabilities to help them participate in society (New Zealand Disability Strategy 2016).
Reduced loneliness amongst older people.
  • Raise awareness of the impact of loneliness and social isolation on older people and encourage communities to address these.
  • Take a joined-up approach across government and social sectors to co-ordinate assistance to socially isolated and other vulnerable older people (Healthy Ageing Strategy 2016).
  • Loneliness is addressed earlier in a person’s lifetime so they have the necessary tools to live a better life as they age.
  • Community environments are designed to make it easy for older people to be socially connected.

Valuing and respecting

The experience and wisdom of older people enhances our society. New Zealanders generally recognise this and respect older people, valuing their contribution and experience. However, this is not always the case – some older people are affected by ageism, and also by racist or sexist attitudes. This could increase if older people are thought of as a burden on society or younger people feel they have not had the same opportunities. On the other hand, growing numbers of older people can increase opportunities for intergenerational contact and understanding.

Kaumātua often play a critical role in the cultural life of their whānau, hapū and iwi. While this role brings respect, it also brings demands that can impact on their wellbeing, economic prosperity or health.


As we age, we want to continue to make our own decisions. The New Zealand Disability Strategy 2016 recognises that disabled people have the right to make their own choices and decisions on things that affect how they live. This should be the case for all older people too.

What we want to achieve What needs to happen
All older people are respected and valued.
  • New Zealand society values older people and recognises their lifetime of contribution.
  • Positive attitudes and imagery of older people are promoted.
  • Ageism is confronted and addressed.
Everyone has opportunities to contribute to society regardless of age.
  • Older people from different groups (eg, different cultural and interest groups) are engaged with to enable them to contribute to decisions.
People are supported to make choices and have the right to make decisions about their lives as they age.
  • People are treated with dignity and as individuals. Professionals take the time to explain clearly to older people what is going on, as soon as practicable.
  • People understand their rights and are empowered to make their own decisions.
  • Those who need support to communicate or make decisions receive it in an appropriate way at the right time (New Zealand Disability Strategy 2016).
  • The uptake of mechanisms such as enduring power of attorney are increased so people’s interests are safeguarded should they lose the capacity to make decisions.
  • Implementation of the Advance Care Planning Strategy, which encourages people and health professionals to talk about advance care plans for health and end-of-life care, continues.

Safety, including freedom from elder abuse and neglect

To enjoy our communities as we age, we need to feel and be safe. While older people are less likely to be victims of crime than others, older people are also less likely to feel safe walking alone in their neighbourhood after dark.

Numbers of people experiencing elder abuse and physical and emotional neglect could grow as the older population increases. As abuse is usually at the hands of a family member or a person of trust, the impact can be significant.

What we want to achieve What needs to happen
As people age, they feel and are safe.
  • Communities are supported to provide safe environments and to work proactively with older people to address safety concerns.
The prevalence of elder abuse and neglect is reduced, and those who experience abuse are well supported.
  • A co-ordinated, system-wide approach to preventing, identifying and eliminating elder abuse and neglect is created.
  • Awareness of the risk factors and occurrence of elder abuse and neglect is known and understood.
  • Those who experience elder abuse and neglect get the support they need. Those providing support receive professional training.

Digital inclusion

Our world is increasingly moving online, with more services able to be accessed remotely. Many, but not all, older people are tech-savvy, with some less able or choosing not to use information technology. Older people, and those on low incomes, are less likely to use the Internet than younger people. With the levels and sophistication of scams on the rise, some people avoid using the Internet.

Technology can offer significant benefits and increase our ability to age in our communities. Things like smarter homes and gadgets/apps to monitor health can increase independence and reduce the need for support. Technology can also help us stay socially connected and in touch with family, whānau and friends.

The increase in online services may make it harder for some older people and those living in isolated areas to access services like banking and to make appointments face-to-face. This can also negatively impact or reduce opportunities for social connection.

What we want to achieve What needs to happen
As people age, they safely use technology to improve their lives.
  • Innovative technological solutions that help older people, and digital design that addresses their needs is encouraged.
People who do not use technology can still access the services they need.
  • Different ways of accessing government services that meet the needs of all older people (eg, face-to-face and online) are considered.

Responding to change

Changes to the ways we live, work, connect and access services are happening at an ever-increasing pace. We need to be able to adjust to changes and recover quickly from adverse life events.

As we age, we can experience significant life changes. We could develop poor health, lose our job or driver licence, or lose a spouse or partner, siblings or friends. We may need to move to a new house, or transition into residential care. Some changes may make it more difficult to stay socially connected or to participate in the community. Our ability to adapt and cope with change is affected by our level of social support and connectedness.

Being better able to adapt to change means that we will be better placed to deal with challenges that may impact us later in life.

Lifelong learning helps people develop resilience, respond to changes, and maintain physical and mental fitness and dexterity. The arts, attending classes, and participating in activities, groups and clubs contribute to this too.

What we want to achieve What needs to happen
People can successfully transition through and adapt to life changes.
  • Awareness is raised of ways of adapting to change for older people.
  • Preparing for expected/likely changes to people as they age is promoted.
  • The benefits of social connection are known and understood.
  • Older people are supported to make their own decisions.
  • Opportunities to master new activities and encourage and support lifelong learning are provided.


Many older people volunteer, contributing to communities and actively participating in society. This is reciprocal, with many volunteers gaining as well as giving, with associated health, wellbeing and social connectedness benefits. Volunteers have a huge variety of roles, providing invaluable support to schools, charities, and NGOs. Many older people provide volunteer services that support other older people.

The value of volunteers is far-reaching – many organisations would be unable to carry out their work without it. It is an opportunity for us as we age to use our skills and experiences to support and help others and continue to contribute.

Volunteering can be challenging when older people are living on a low income, experiencing health issues, or unable to access transport.

What we want to achieve What needs to happen
Those who wish to volunteer can do so.
  • Barriers to volunteering are identified and addressed.

Recognising and responding to diversity

Being older does not mean that people have the same level of health or mobility or live in a particular way. People are individuals with different needs, regardless of age. People can be rightfully frustrated at being treated a certain way because of their age without consideration of their individual circumstances.

Cultural, sexual and language differences can make it difficult for some people to find and engage with services that meet their needs.

What we want to achieve What needs to happen
Recognise older people are as diverse as any other group, with individual aspirations and needs.
  • Services are planned, designed and delivered recognising diversity and differing needs.

Making environments accessible
Te whakarite taiao e māmā ai te whai wāhi atu

Accessibility is our ability to engage with, use, participate in and belong to the world around us. Making environments accessible includes the design of local places and facilities, transport, and housing as well as connection to the natural environment. This can affect how we engage within and across our communities and how active we are, which can significantly affect our physical and mental wellbeing.

Having age-friendly cities and communities and accessible transport options available allows us to continue to connect and participate in our communities and to access services as we age.

Age-friendly environments and communities

New Zealand became an affiliate to the World Health Organization’s Age-friendly Cities and Communities programme in 2018, and this is given effect through Age friendly Aotearoa New Zealand. This programme helps cities and communities to work in partnership with older people to adapt structures (buildings, roads, pedestrian spaces etc) and services to meet their needs.

What we want to achieve What needs to happen
New Zealand communities, facilities, places and spaces are age-friendly and accessible.
  • Implementation of Age friendly Aotearoa New Zealand continues.


We want to create a more liveable world where people of all ages and abilities can access the destinations and journeys that make up their daily lives. Accessible, reliable public transport and mobility schemes, together with well-maintained and safe pedestrian environments, are important for people as they age.

Active transport, including walking and cycling, supports physical and mental wellbeing. A healthier ageing population can be supported by making it easier and safer for people to access everyday destinations by walking and cycling.

New transport technologies will create new opportunities, as well as risks, for older people. Electric bikes and mobility scooters can make it easier for older people to travel. Cars are also becoming increasingly automated. Self-driving cars could eventually allow more older New Zealanders to access places by car. Urban spaces will need to safely accommodate different forms of transport competing for space. 

What we want to achieve What needs to happen
As we age, we can easily and safely get to where we want to go.
  • The public transport network is improved so it better meets the needs of older people.
  • Footpaths, cycle lanes and crossings are designed and maintained so they are safe for all to use and encourage walking and cycling.
  • Transport options are available so older people can move around, irrespective of where they live or any disability issues they may have.

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