Is New Zealand equipped for an ageing population?

From children with children to saying goodbye to the workforce – ageing is by no means an individual experience. In fact, many of us here in New Zealand are at it.
Our national population is ageing, and it’s expected that as much as 27 per cent of the country will be aged over 65 by 2050. This is quite a jump from just 15 per cent in 2016. Paired with our dropping fertility rates and longer life expectancies, this means fewer youth and more elderly than ever before.

The ramifications are vast and often unexpected. Far more than simply more Kiwis being eligible for the pension, this will mean society (that’s us!) as a whole will need to adapt to an older population. From pedestrian lights that allow more time for crossing, to better protections for the elderly, there are few areas of our daily grind that won’t be affected in some way. Some of the largest changes will be in the disability and health care sectors. Demand will skyrocket for these services, and, just like many countries, we’ll need to find a way to pay for it all.

The problem is, with a smaller workforce and a larger number of elderly, current tax rates may not be enough to foot the bill. For example, Europe currently has four people of working age for every older person, but by 2050, that ratio will be just two workers per older person

That raises some understandably pressing questions.

How will we pay for an ageing population?

Technically speaking, an ageing population is a huge success – it partially means that healthcare has come such a long way that more people are living longer. Yet we can’t afford to spend too much time patting ourselves on the back for this win, as we need to plan now for how to pay for the extra pensions, care facilities, and health care for more elderly.

As these expenses are currently funded by taxes, the simplest answer may appear to raise the tax rate. However, this could discourage personal wealth building or even scare off foreign investors. Another possibility is to continue to increase the superannuation age – a move that has already been put into action over in Australia. Yet another possibility is for the government to support individual savings and investments, placing more of an onus on the individual to pay for their own retirement.

No matter how we choose to address this puzzle, we don’t have time to waste in getting started.

What will happen to the agriculture industry?

While many of New Zealand’s difficulties posed by an ageing population are the same as those faced in countries around the world, one is more unique to our shores – the question of agriculture.

According to New Zealand parliament, agricultural businesses throughout the country have a relatively high median age amongst workers and owners. The question is, what happens when older workers retire and sell their grain, beef, sheep, and other farms?

While many would undoubtedly be handed down family lines, or sold to local owners, NZ Parliament has noted that some could also end up in foreign hands, which could have consequences for this major industry.

This is just one of many considerations the country will face in coming years due to an ageing population, and one that few have real answers to.

What is the three-quarter life crisis?

Everyone knows what a mid-life crisis is, but countless 60-somethings are left in the dark when they start thinking about the future. It’s not uncommon – just less talked about – and it’s fast becoming known as the three-quarter life crisis.

It’s a time when you look back on your life, asses your current situation, and look to the future thinking about what you want to do with the years ahead.

Is now the time to stay the course, or throw everything in and finally live out the dreams you’ve always wanted? Should you move to be closer to family, or cash everything in and buy endless world cruises (although, let’s hold that exact thought until we have a reliable coronavirus solution).

A three-quarter life crisis is the natural outcome of a mind that’s concerned about the future and wistful about the past, mindful of the world’s current state and thoughtful about how best to use the years left.

How to deal with a three-quarter life crisis

Buying a Harley is out, but these survival tips are in:

  • Talk to someone – a therapist, friend, or loved one can provide an excellent sounding board for your concerns.
  • Accept the past – everyone has regrets, but the past is not something that can be changed. Accept what you can so you can move on and enjoy the now.
  • Make goals – get proactive and turn those half-cooked dreams into genuine goals so you can start making them happen.
  • Consider organising your insurance policies such as life insurance and updating your will. It’s one less thing for your mind to fret about at 1am.
  • Find a new purpose – have you always wanted to volunteer? Adopt a rescue dog? Organise a beach clean-up? Now’s the time to give yourself new drive.
  • Maintain relationships – stay in touch with old workmates, friends, and family. Staying social can help us through the rough patches.
  • Stay fit – start a new physical activity or revamp an old one. Keeping physically fit can help to keep your mind sharp, too.

All of us will face off against life’s late challenges sooner or later, and as a nation we’re all in this together. We need to figure out how to manage a population that’s ageing like a well-known piece of art – beautifully, but at a price.