COVID-19 and older New Zealanders

New Zealanders of all ages were affected by increasing border restrictions and self-isolation requirements to limit the spread of COVID-19.

These restrictions have had both social and economic consequences. To track the impacts of COVID-19 on older people aged 65 years and over (65+) and older workers aged 50 years and over (50+) we are monitoring a small set of key short-term indicators.

COVID-19 indicators for older people- July 2020

COVID-19 indicators for older people- August 2020

COVID-19 indicators for older people- November 2020

COVID-19 indicators for older people- February 2021

COVID-19 indicators for older people- July 2021

Highlights - July 2021

  • This report uses data up to the March 2021 quarter (three months to March 2021).

  • Underutilisation rates for the total adult population (those aged 15+) have increased from pre COVID-19 levels quarters and have remained elevated through to the March 2021 quarter. Increases in underutilisation for older workers (aged 50+) were not statistically significant.

  • Total income support recipients aged 50+ have increased and remain elevated as a result of COVID-19. This was mainly driven by a jump in Jobseeker Work Ready rates since March 2020, in spite of a more recent flattening and slight decline in numbers. This is in line with trends in the total adult population.

  • Jobseeker cancellation rates for older workers aged 50+ obtaining work are consistently lower than those for workers between the ages of 16 and 49. This discrepancy was evident prior to COVID-19.

  • Indicators of material hardship, loneliness and discrimination have not changed significantly for the 65+ population throughout the pandemic and remain moderately lower than for the total adult population.
  • There does not appear to be any change in the rates at which potential elder abuse is reported to the national helpline service as a result of COVID-19.

  • The number of applicants aged 65 and over on the Public Housing Register (excluding numbers on the transfer register) has been rapidly increasing since before the pandemic began. This is a similar pattern to that for the entire housing register. The number of applicants aged 65 and over on the Public Housing Register increased by 153 between December 2020 and March 2021.

  • MSD paid 390 Emergency Housing Grants to older people (65+) in the month of March 2021, less than a peak of 411 in October 2020 but still higher than before lockdown.

  • Most organisations said the challenges the pandemic brought have now passed, although there is still some lingering concern amongst older people, especially regarding the communication surrounding the vaccine roll out. Some older people are fearful of getting COVID-19 before they receive their vaccine, although the most frequently raised concern was that some older people are confused by the communications they have been receiving regarding the vaccine roll out and feel it is unclear who they should be speaking to about the vaccine roll out.