Older people represent a significant and growing proportion of the Marlborough population. In the 2018 census, 22% of the total population was aged 65 or over; a total of 10,548 people. These demographics are expected to grow significantly in the coming years.
There are three principal drivers of the increasing age profile. One is transition of the 'boomer' generation of people born between 1945 and 1960 into older age. The effects of this are only beginning to be fully registered - apart from the very significant increase in numbers that the boomer generation represents, this generation has had quite different lifestyle experiences (compared to the current cohort of older people) and it will affect their lifestyle choices, concerns and behaviours over the remainder of their lives.
A second factor is the improvement in both population health and medical care. These improvements enable people to live longer, and to remain active for longer. The implications of this trend are also only beginning to show, with, for example, more people continuing to live independently, providing that they have access to suitable support and with some enhancements to their home.
Both these factors are being experienced internationally. Benchmarked against national statistics, Marlborough is, however, at the leading edge of these population changes; amongst regional councils, our median age is the highest in the country (although several district councils have a higher median age). This is partly a result of the underlying population base, but also the impact of the third factor - the migration of older people and middle-aged people into the district. The net effect of these factors is to create not only an increased number of older people in the community, but a group of people for whom the experience of being aged will present quite differently from previous cohorts. These differences are likely to include higher rates of physical and economic activity, greater average affluence (but likely including greater inequalities of wealth and poverty), and higher expectations of service.
At the older edge of the cohort, distinct gender differences are also beginning to emerge. Women in the group 75+ significantly outnumber men and are more likely to present their own set of needs and aspirations. Council has a number of programmes and services that are aimed at responding to the needs of older people, including Council's Older Persons Forum. The forum requested that Council consider developing a policy that would align with the National Positive Ageing Strategy administered by the Office of Senior Citizens within the Ministry of Social Development.
The aim of the National Positive Ageing Strategy is to improve opportunities for older people to participate in the community in the ways that they choose. It incorporates broad principles to guide the development of policies and services from a wide range of government and non-government agencies and identifies key areas that contribute to positive ageing.
The strategy states that it strives for:
"A society where people can age positively, where older people are highly valued and where they are recognised as an integral part of families and communities. New Zealand will be a positive place in which to age when older people say that they live in a society that values them, acknowledges their contributions and encourages their participation."
This vision is directly reflected in the community outcome identified in the 2009 Long Term Council Community Plan of Marlborough: "A community where people can age positively, where older people are valued for their experience, wisdom and character, and where they are recognised as an integral part of families and communities."