Over 65 and undervalued
30 April, 2018
It’s the fastest-growing age group in New Zealand, yet its members often feel undervalued, even exploited.
It’s the over 65s: a group whose life expectancy has increased by 10 years since the 1950s and is expected to double in size by 2038.
These figures should mean the group is hard to ignore, yet a survey conducted by Public Trust and Pureprofile of New Zealanders aged 65+ revealed many of its members feel marginalised by society or believe they’ve had a degree of autonomy taken from them as they age.
Of those surveyed, 40% felt they had fewer choices in life as an older person, while nearly the same proportion reported being scared of losing control of their life as they age – a sentiment not necessarily tied to their actual ability. Nearly half of the respondents reported being deemed unable or less capable of doing something because of their age, while more than 30% felt they had been excluded from employment opportunities.
“A lot of HR people are younger and don’t consider older people for jobs, and don’t take into account the experience older people have,” said a survey participant. The lack of independence and control has been associated with a loss of personal identity, as well as exploitation. One in every 10 of those surveyed reported that someone has tried to take advantage of them financially. Some sources suggest that the financial abuse of elders is widely underreported. 
Comments from the survey also suggested a frustration associated with how seniors are managed in everyday society. “Shovelling elders into multi-storey prison block-like ‘retirement homes’ away from the general population is retrograde and a negative move that only benefits the owners of such facilities,” said one participant.
With the help of Pureprofile, Public Trust conducted the research to help ensure the company’s financial and personal care services were in line with the current climate and continued to meet the needs of its customers.
“Ageism can take many forms and may not always be deliberate or intentional. It could come from everyday behaviours that have just become the norm,” says Public Trust’s Head of Marketing and Partnerships, Josh Byers. “It’s important that we listen to what this group really thinks and feels, and what it needs. Public Trust has an important role to play in reducing ageism and financial abuse, so we need to make sure our services our helping in the best way possible.”
Comments from the survey echo the sentiment of Age Concern’s Chief Executive, Stephanie Clare.
“Ageism is getting old, and I want all New Zealanders to stand up against ageist attitudes and behaviour,” says Ms Clare. “Twenty-two per cent of people aged over 65 are still in paid employment, so employers need to take a fresh look at how to harness and value older people’s experience and skills.”
More information on ageism and elder exploitation can be found at Age Concern New Zealand, which also includes information on how to become an Age Concern Dignity Champion.
Pureprofile and Public Trust conducted the online survey of 420 New Zealanders aged 65+ in September 2017.
Contact: Ian Letham, Content & Communications Consultant
Phone: 022 070 0979