Attitudes Towards Ageing Report
How we value age
New Zealand’s first all-ages research into our attitudes towards ageing reveals high levels of respect for seniors across the ages and provides insights into our evolving outlook towards life as we age.
In total, 1,609 people aged from 18+ were surveyed.
Across the generations we have very high levels of respect for older people:
- 80 percent of Millennials (aged 18-34),
- 80 percent of Generation Xers (aged 35-49)
- 89 percent of Baby Boomers (aged 50-74)
But one in ten of those aged 75-plus reported feeling lonely or being socially isolated.
And a higher number say they have, at times, felt invisible.
Seniors were also viewed as an asset to society.
More than half those surveyed, 54 percent, considered seniors brought benefits and were of value to society.
A small group (8 percent) saw older people as more of a burden.
The Baby Boomers had the highest regard for seniors being assets to society, at 64 percent.
This was followed by the 75-plus on 59 percent.
More than half of Generation X, 52 percent, viewed older people as an asset.
Millennials were more likely to be neutral at 44 percent, with only a very few seeing as a burden on society, at 2 per cent.
People also have more positive than negative stereotypes of seniors.
Along with being retired or having grey hair, older people were described as experienced, wise, kind, knowledgeable, hardworking, energetic, relaxed and cheerful.
Social isolation and exclusion - Invisibility
While Baby Boomers were positive about the value of their contribution, they were the generation most likely to agree they sometimes feel invisible because of their age.
Nearly one in four Baby Boomers (23 percent) disclosed they sometimes felt invisible because of their age.
With the 75-plus generation, 18 percent reported they felt invisible, at times.
How we define age
Our concept of age varies greatly across generations and is largely influenced by our own age.
On average, respondents indicated that they would stop describing someone as ‘young’ at 37 and start describing someone as ‘middle aged’ at 46, as ‘old’ at 67 and as ‘very old’ at 84.
There is a 20 year gap between how the generations view at what age you stop being young.
Millennials stop describing someone as young at 29, while the 75-plus generation stop describing someone as young at the age of 49.
Our outlook as we age
Concerns about ageing appear to decrease with age.
Millennials (aged 18-34) are more concerned about all aspects of ageing than their 75-plus generation counterparts.
This shift appears to happen around middle age, with people starting to become less concerned about things such as dying and loneliness around the age of 45.
The age people plans to retire moves upwards as they age.
The majority of respondents aged over 60 are living in their own home and 80 percent of them plan to stay there as they age.
Across the generations we are most looking forward to ageing bringing freedom or time to do as little as we want (64 percent).
More than a third of us (36 percent) feel our life will be better than it is now, in five years’ time.
Across the generations, our main concerns about ageing relate to physical illness or disability (58 percent) and mental health or dementia (56 percent).
While concerns about money and loneliness or isolation actually decrease with age, our concerns about making a contribution and feeling like a burden; and becoming mentally ill or getting dementia decrease but less so.
This shows that age isn’t necessarily a number – physical well-being and personal circumstances play a major part in our attitudes to age and ageing.
Preparedness for an older population
There is very low awareness of the nature of our ageing population:
*More than a third of respondents didn’t feel capable of choosing from a pre-specified list the range within which the number of New Zealanders aged 65-plus currently stands in the New Zealand population.
This needs to change if we are to face the challenges and embrace the opportunities of our ageing population.
Having been told the projected increase in our 65-plus population in 20 years’ time, 62 percent of us were not confident New Zealand would be prepared to cater for the size of its ageing population.
This has implications at all levels within our communities.