Why? Well, when good services like Enliven struggle now to provide care where it’s needed for this population, we want to know how Leaders plan to meet the demands of a far greater population of older people tomorrow.
PSNZ regularly brings together all seven regional Enliven Service Managers to discuss service delivery strategies, challenges and emerging issues for older people. This group repeatedly share their concerns for what they see as a growing inequity among the older people they serve, and the lack of options left for Seniors retiring without home-ownership, or with mortgages still left to pay. For one Enliven client story of housing crisis, click here.
Enliven managers are not alone. Presbyterian Support is a proud member of the New Zealand Christian Council of Social Services (NZCCSS), whose policy group for Older People is often heard discussing the same set of worries. NZCCSS’s policy groups are made up of leaders from among their six members, all providing social services nationally. Like Presbyterian Support, NZCCSS tries to raise awareness through this policy group about the growing number of older people needing care and social support, and New Zealand’s lack of a strategy to meet their growing demands. For another client story provided by NZCCSS click here.
The Retirement Commission recently conducted research on older people that confirmed our anecdotal concerns: fewer retirees are living in houses they own, and many struggle to afford food and rent. Retirement Commissioner Jane Wrightson noted there was a dominant narrative of retirement, one that assumes an older person is a wealthyish person owning their own home with sufficient capital to live quite comfortably. In fact, only half of this population fit that trope, while roughly a third of retirees are renting. The research reveals that this latter group will double by 2048 (this equates to a staggering 600,000 older people), while the former population is steadily in decline.
Currently, 40% of people aged 65 and over have virtually no other income than NZ Super. Another 20% have only a little bit more. With a declining home ownership rate and the rising costs of living, more people do not have enough money to retire. Māori, Pasifika, and women are over-represented among older people with little to no equity at retirement. This is because generally speaking these groups earn less over their working life, an inequitable condition of New Zealand’s work environment certainly not of their own making.
It should be noted that most people with disabilities are older people (who become disabled later in life) and their numbers will increase as the proportion of the population aged 65+ increases. Households that include a person with a disability tend to have lower income due to lower labour market participation, which limits their ability to save for retirement.
At our Enliven Services we believe we have a role to play in improving retirement outcomes not just for affluent older New Zealanders in our homes, but all older New Zealanders, including those living alone in the community, or relying on the care of their families and whānau. Our Enliven services have been hit hard however by the pandemic and its subsequent impacts on the economy.
The longer Covid-19 continues, the more staff shortages we face across all our service teams. All regions were stretched finding workers and volunteers to replace team members sick or in isolation. Anxiety around exposure to the virus prevented many of our usual service contacts, outings and social activities. Many of our older volunteers reassessed their work for us due to a desire to reduce their own Covid risk exposure, and keep contacts limited to their family bubbles. Many moved away from volunteering to find work, as household incomes and economies shifted during the pandemic.
As a result, in two regions we closed doors to some of our Enliven homes and gave notice to the public that we could not take on new clients. We are heartened by government’s announcements regarding a green light to residency for internationally qualified nurses; we are confident also that recent pay parity and pay equity settlements will revive our capability to attract the staff we need and also pay them what they deserve. But these measures alone are not enough to ready us for the tsunami of need coming as the population ages, and the proportion without equity expands.
We think before New Zealanders vote, they deserve honest answers from each political Party about how Aged Care can be assured equitably, despite how rapidly our population is now ageing, and despite the growing disparity in the distribution of wealth amongst older New Zealanders.
We invited National, Te Paati Māori, Labour, Green and Act to each send their spokesperson for Seniors on May 1st. Each will have their chance to say what their Party promises poorer older people. Following all five presentations, we will invite a response from the Right Reverend Hamish Galloway, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church.