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Retirement becoming unaffordable for many elderly New Zealanders amid cost of living crisis

26 September, 2023

Interview by Joshua Black, adapted by Athena Li-Watts

With growing numbers of elderly people facing housing insecurity, Journalist Ollie Neas says it is a political choice not to address how the cost of living is impacting retirees.

Concerns have been raised about the wellbeing of elderly retirees amid the cost of living crisis. 

Last month, a 72-year-old Auckland woman was found dead in her Suzuki Swift, which she had been living out of after being evicted from her late mother's house in 2022.

Journalist and writer of the article "Where Will You Live When You’re Old?" for North and South Magazine, Ollie Neas, told 95bFM’s The Wire that more seniors in Aotearoa are experiencing housing insecurity than ever. 

“We have this narrative that the housing crisis is primarily affecting younger people and old people are generally doing alright.”

"Many old people, like other parts of the population, cannot afford housing.” 

According to Neas, recent statistics show one in four New Zealanders enter retirement without owning a home. This is expected to grow to 50% of all retirees by 2053. 

“Our entire system for supporting seniors is built on the assumption that people will retire as homeowners. That is becoming less and less true and it is causing all sorts of ramifications.”

Neas argued that retirement villages and rest homes are now only an option for wealthy people. 

He said unit prices tied to the housing market, coupled with weekly management fees, are often too much to afford on a pension. Currently, pensions are at most $496 a week. For those who do not own homes, pensions go towards rent, leaving little for other necessities.

“Essentially, you need to already own a house in order to be able to enter a retirement village,” said Neas. 

Raising the retirement and superannuation age from 65 to 67 has been proposed by National and ACT. This is despite a recent report from the Retirement Commission recommending the age stays the same.

Neas said that raising the retirement and superannuation age would make things worse for many elderly New Zealanders, as their standard of living often improves after entering retirement as they transition from lower incomes to consistent support.

“If we raise the retirement age, we could expect problems of housing insecurity to get worse among some people.”

He said raising the retirement age is a political choice, and does not need to happen if we redirect our resources. 

“When it comes to housing for seniors, none of the parties are proposing to radically change things.”

Listen to the full interview

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air