New Zealand has a rapidly ageing population, this is a fact. In season 2 of critically acclaimed local documentary series What Next? our ageing population is examined. Host Jehan Casinader tells Grandparents NZ a bit about his episode and what he has discovered about future-proofing New Zealand.
What is your episode about?
There’s a tsunami heading our way. We have a very large aging population, and we just aren’t prepared for it. In the next few years, there’s going to be a massive strain on our infrastructure, our tax system, our aged care sector… you name it. We need to prepare for that tsunami, so that we have a good shot at providing high-quality care for our elderly.
From what you learnt making the episode, what do you think needs to be done in the short term?
It’s no longer viable to keep putting older people in retirement villages, closing the door and walking away. It’s not good for them, and it’s not good for our families. We know that loneliness is a killer. These people deserve to be acknowledged, respected and engaged in New Zealand life. One way to do this is by thinking about how we build our homes and communities. In this episode, we explore the concept of ‘multi-generational’ living – with many generations in one family living together under the same roof. We also highlight why social connection is so important for Kiwis in their later years.
What do you think needs to be done in the long term?
The reality is, we’re living longer – which means people are also working longer. So we need to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67 – something that the Treasury has advised politicians to do. It’s not a popular option, but it’s vital to making sure that we can continue to afford decent superannuation for older Kiwis, without bankrupting our younger tax-paying generation. We also need to think more creatively about older workers. Too many employers ‘write off’ over-65s. Instead, we need to recognise that these people have a lot to offer. We need to create a more flexible workforce and volunteer sector that allows older Kiwis to keep contributing.
Are you able to give an example from the episode that may help future-proof NZ?
It was interesting to learn about how technology can help us look after our aging population. Some retirement villages are already using robotic technology to monitor residents’ health stats, keep their minds active, and decrease loneliness. Artificial intelligence technology is also being used in people’s homes – allowing their children to remotely track their movements around the house, and check whether they have been to the fridge or the toilet. It all sounds a bit ‘Big Brother’, but this technology is likely to play a really important role in our future.
After hosting the episode, what are your thoughts?
We need to stop viewing our elderly population as a problem to be ‘solved’. Yes, there are some really difficult issues around these demographic changes. But there are also huge opportunities. People over the age of 65 have so much to offer. They’ve been around, they’ve seen a lot of things, and they’ve learned some of life’s toughest lessons. We need to involve them in these tough conversations and be more responsive to their needs. The future of New Zealand depends on it.
What Next? Tuesday 11th June, 8.30pm on TVNZ 1