Step 2.1 - Review local statistics

To start the review of your community’s age friendly status, have a look at local data around current and future demographics.

Start by looking at the community demographics, including:

The number of older people in your community

How many older people are there in your community? How many are there expected to be in the future?

Many communities have increasing numbers of older people, mainly due to increasing longevity. This increase in the numbers of older people is called ‘numerical ageing’.

Why this matters

Numbers equal demand (for resources and services) and also supply (for example, of potential workers and volunteers).

Use numbers (at any age) when considering what types of resources and services are needed locally (for example, housing suitable for older people, aged-care workers, doctors, community services).

Proportion of older people

The increasing numbers of older people, along with declining birth rates, are altering the makeup of our population. What proportion of your local population is aged 65+ years, compared to the proportion aged 20–64 years, or 0–14 years?

Key age groups for population ageing analysis

  • 0–14 years (child/school age population)
  • 15–24 years (high school/leavers/university and labour market entrants)
  • 25–39 years (primary reproductive age group)
  • 40–54 years (primary parental age group/peak home buyers)
  • 55–64 years (entering retirement zone/peak homeowners)
  • 65–74 years (retirement zone/home ownership stable/reducing)
  • 75+ years (older population/home ownership reducing)
  • 85+ years (the ‘older-old’)

Why this matters

Use proportions for comparison.

For example, you can use proportions to show whether your community is ‘older’ or ‘younger’ or ageing faster or slower than another, or to show how much of your local population growth is accounted for by those aged 65+.

Knowing the relative proportions can be useful to reference when reporting or seeking resource funding, and for working out the mix and type of resources and services that are needed locally (eg, facilities, transport).

Changing age structures (age composition)

The proportions at each age give each community a unique age structure.

The structure could be quite square, with similar proportions in each age bracket. It could be pyramidal, with more younger people and fewer older people, an upside-down pyramid, with more older people than younger people, or it could look like an apple core.

Why this matters

Knowing your local age structure (by assembling the proportions at each age) is a valuable tool for strategic planning. The age structure of a population determines overall demand and supply, whether it be for services, facilities and resources, the types of local shops and businesses that might flourish, or identifying gaps in local provision.

Drivers of population change

The local age structure, and whether the population grows or declines or is ageing faster or slower, is the result of interactions between births and deaths (natural change) and migration, by age.

A net gain of people aged over 75 (for example, when a new retirement village opens) makes a population structurally older, as does a net loss of young adults – which occurs in most areas of New Zealand almost every year. By contrast, a net gain of young adults (almost exclusively to university cities and key tourist areas) or a net loss of older people (often from Auckland) slows structural ageing.

Why this matters

Once a population has more older people than children, it loses its ability to replenish from natural increase (more births than deaths) and moves into a to natural decrease state (more deaths than births). After that, it can only grow from migration. The age of those migrants, not just their number, will determine future growth.

Understanding these local drivers and their impact on the local age structure is crucial for planning. Usefully, local drivers tend to be reasonably consistent year-on-year, as the age structure changes in a fairly predictable manner.

Local ageing in context

You should also consider location in relation to the ‘age’ of neighbouring suburbs or communities, towns and regions. Is your community located in a structurally older area, such as the Thames-Coromandel area or the Nelson/Marlborough/Tasman area, or is it closer to a youthful city, like Hamilton?

Why this matters

Structurally older areas tend to have lower unemployment because demand for people of working age is outstripping their supply. If the region surrounding them is also ‘older’, there will be fewer workers available locally to fill the jobs.

Knowing both your local demography and that of your local labour market area is valuable for thinking about local employment issues, especially in terms of where your labour supply and services will come from.

Where to find this information

Contact your local council as a starting point – they may have done some of this work already.

Statistics New Zealand has tools to create bespoke tables of demographic information.

Statistics New Zealand

Other places that might have useful information include:

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