Median age above NZ average

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 05:00 24/10/2012
elderly
The age of the average Timaruvian is growing older.

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South Canterbury's population has a median age well above the national average, new figures show.

Statistics New Zealand's latest national population report reveals that Timaru's estimated median age is 44.2 years, and 20.4 per cent of the population is older than 65 in June 2012. The estimated national median age was 37, while 13.8 per cent of New Zealand's population was over 65.

Even starker numbers were recorded for Waitaki (median age 47.2, 23.2 per cent over 65) and Waimate (median age 45.6, 22.2 per cent over 65), and the Mackenzie district's population was also older than the national average (median age 42.4, 16.8 per cent over 65).

Age Concern Canterbury community health nurse Kerry Howley said the ageing population placed some pressures on the region.

"While people are getting older and living longer, that doesn't necessarily mean that problems with isolation get any easier.

"If you suffer a fall, or lose your driver's licence, then things such as your confidence and your ability to meet people get affected."

Ms Howley said the regional organisation had about 2500 people on its books, but could see up to 15,000 people in a year. The Canterbury earthquakes had also exacerbated problems for many older people, she said.

"Our organisation has three on-call nurses serving Canterbury. It means we cover a large area, and deal with a number of issues, from elder abuse to primary care, with not many people."

She said a coming national review would assess the organisation's priorities.

"I'm always optimistic; we have a very good relationship with other similar organisations, as well as the health boards.

"Life doesn't stop at 65 in the same way it once might have for people - many are still working into their 70s."

Waikato University population studies professor Natalie Jackson said all councils had to face the "inconvenient truth" of the ageing population.

"There are structural reasons for it, such as the increase in life expectancy, and the decline in the birth rate, but at a national level, the net migration is negative, and many of those leaving would be younger people. So we lose twice."

Prof Jackson said councils had to accept that with an ageing population came slower or even decreased overall growth.

New Zealand's "youngest" city was Hamilton, with a median age of 31.7, while the "oldest" district by median age was Thames-Coromandel at 49.1. However, Kapiti Coast had the highest proportion of over-65s, at 25.4 per cent of its population.

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- The Timaru Herald

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