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Older people experiencing vulnerability and multiple disadvantage in New Zealand

To support actions under the Government’s Better Later Life Strategy Action Plan 2021-2024 – He Mahere Hohenga – MSD partnered with SWA and MoH to build an evidence base demonstrating the size, scale and characteristics of older people experiencing vulnerability in health, housing, finance, social connection and access using the Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI). This report presents the first phase of work and demonstrates where compounding hardship is occurring across different communities in Aotearoa, NZ.

This phase of work is an important step in delivering against the Strategy commitments. It will also be a vital evidence base to assist policy makers to continue work to consider how current supports and services are responding to the unique and nuanced needs of older people in hardship and how overall outcomes can be improved and inequities across older communities reduced.

While many older people are doing well by our indicators, experiences of multiple disadvantage are common

  • Fifty-four percent of older people are healthy, have liveable housing, are financially secure, and have good social connections, and access.
  • Thirty-three percent of older people experience vulnerability in a single domain and 13 percent experience multiple disadvantage i.e. vulnerability across two or more domains.
  • Among those who experience multiple disadvantage, there is a complex spectrum of need. For example, there are groups of older people experiencing multiple mental health conditions paired with compounding housing and financial vulnerability.
  • Mental health has a significant impact on older people’s experience of multiple disadvantage.
  • Multiple disadvantage in two domains is mostly due to poor health and lack of social connection and multiple disadvantage in three domains is mostly due to vulnerability in health, housing, and finance.
  • Auckland, Gisborne, and the West Coast have the highest proportion of older people who experience multiple disadvantage.

Older people experience vulnerability across many domains

  • Older people are most likely to experience health vulnerability. 24 percent of older people experience health vulnerability.
  • Eighteen percent of older people experience housing vulnerability. These older people live in poor quality or/and overcrowded houses. Housing tenure has a significant impact on housing experiences. Older people who rent experience higher proportions of housing vulnerability compared to those with a mortgage or those with no mortgage or no rent.
  • Eight percent of older people experience financial vulnerability. Some older people receiving superannuation also experience financial vulnerability.
  • Seventeen percent of older people experience social connection vulnerability and 3 percent older people experience access vulnerability.

Māori and Pacific peoples experience disproportionately higher levels of vulnerability

  • The findings of varied experiences of vulnerability in older people are consistent with the inequitable experiences and outcomes of Māori and Pacific peoples across their life course.
  • Older Pacific peoples experience the highest proportions of housing vulnerability compared to all other ethnicities.
  • Asian and MELAA (Middle Eastern, Latin American, and African) older people experience the highest proportions of financial vulnerability.
  • Māori older people experience the highest proportion of health vulnerability and, European older people experience the highest proportion of social connection vulnerability.
  • Older Pacific peoples, irrespective of sex, were more likely to experience multiple disadvantage at 27 percent, compared to all other subgroups we analysed based on sex and ethnicity.

Data caveat

  • The research was based on the most recent 2018 Census data which includes information on home ownership and other socio-economic variables that are not available elsewhere. These sources do not consider the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Auckland floods, Cyclone Gabrielle, and the rising cost of living. Hence, the picture of need in this report is likely to be understated.

Data explorer

The Social Wellbeing Agency (SWA) has released a data explorer tool which visualises the data used in the report. It lets you see and interact with data on the characteristics of older people at a granular level. This can help inform your planning, services, and advocacy.

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