New Zealand’s elderly population is set to explode and will be more ethnically, socially and culturally diverse than ever before.

Te Pou Matakana – the North Islands Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency – has released new research that highlights the increasing urgency to address Māori ageing. Predictions show the number of people 85 and older will more than triple in the next thirty years. By 2021, only three years away, it is anticipated that one in eight Māori will be over 65.

With 9 in ten Māori living in the North Island, Te Pou Matakana has commissioned a study into the needs and wellbeing of Kaumātua – elderly Māori. The research arose from a noticeable gap within the current evidence around the needs of Kaumātua. The research report captures the concerns and aspirations of Māori around ageing.

“With the unprecedented growth in our Kaumātua numbers we, as the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency, are listening to our elders to understand what they need and what their concerns are – to inform our approach to future services”, says Te Pou Matakana Chair Merepeka Raukawa-Tait.

She wants to see multi-sectoral strategies and planning made from the ground up and believes that to be adequately prepared discussions should begin now. “Everything is interlinked and interdependent. Government departments still believe it’s a “one size fits all” approach to ageing. Our elders should not be overlooked now at this stage of their lives as their voices are rarely heard.”

The report shows that Kaumātua vulnerabilities are diverse and include housing, transport, using technology, navigating and accessing services, as well as managing daily health needs including mental health and loneliness.

Key findings of the report further show that grandparents who raise grandchildren without support as a significant issue, and that talking about ageing and planning for it needs to be normalised within whānau. It also provides some insight into the types of services used by Kaumātua within Whānau Ora provisions and highlights the gaps within current services.

Kaumātuatanga –the Needs and Wellbeing of Older Māori aims to create a platform for a discussion and cross-sectoral engagement around finding solutions that are co-designed and appropriate for Māori.