As the street sweepers rolled through the cities of New Zealand, clearing the last remains of ticker-tape, as the Fanzones and their fans dispersed, a slightly different crowd rolled into town.

Richie McCaw stood tall and proud, punching the air in relief and celebration last Sunday.
I wonder, come 26th November 2011 – That’s VOTE DAYpeoples!  – will there be air punching excitement? Will there be ticker-tape and balloons falling from great heights – and who will it be falling on?Election 2011 – let the games begin!Opening pitches were made – starting Friday night with National, Labour and the Greens.  I have to tell you, I was a bit apathetic going in.  I have great respect for those in politics who fight the good fight and stand up for their beliefs, day in and day out, regardless of which side of the fence they stand on.  It must be exhausting.

I get fed up quite easily.  I get foot stompy and stroppy, and had I gone into politics my lack of patience and control would have seen what ever message I was trying to get across lost in a childish tantrum and slamming of Beehive doors!

But beyond all the foot stomping inner teenage tempers, I am actually a bit concerned.
I worry for my children.  I can see that the decisions we make as a country, as a community today, have the power to limit the decisions our children and their children will be able to make in the future.

Even if you do not have children, and never plan to, you are a member of our world, our country, our society, and there is a responsibility to be careful with the assets and blessings you have in this life, so that they exist still for those who come after you.

HAD I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,

Enwrought with golden and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths

Of night and light and the half light,

I would spread the cloths under your feet:

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams under your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

W.B. Yeats

I’ve had a full on conversation with my Mum today.  She was very angry about Labour saying they will increase the retirement age from 65 to 67.  It’s a hard one.  She remembers when it went from 60 to 65.  She said she took it quite well that time, but this time she knows what it feels like to be older and still working.

I would personally love to see it stay at 65.  I told her as much.  But I’m very aware that New Zealand’s population is aging.  There is no magic money tree, and I am more concerned about the burden we place on the children and young adults in the future who will be trying to fund my retirement.In 2050, my daughter Isabelle will  turn 46 years old. (If you happen to be reading this in 2050 – Happy Birthday Baby Girl!)  I will be 72 years old.  Retirement will be upon me.
My dream?  I’d like to have a little house by the sea and enough money and good health to enjoy the odd holiday and to be able to help my kids and my grandkids the way my parents and my parents-inlaw have helped us.
I would dearly love and hope that Aidan and I are both still alive and kicking – getting older and bolder!The reality is that health is not guaranteed.  “If I’m spared,” (as my Nana used to say), the reality of being 72 is that I will be looking at a high likelyhood of spending sometime in a resthome / aged care type facility.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not at all averse to this.  I figure it might be quite nice after spending a full and cherished life cooking and cleaning and wiping butts and making sure my kids are on the right track and are safe and entertained, to spend a few years having someone else make sure I’m okay and safe, make my bed and give me jelly and ice cream for lunch and let me watch movies in the middle of the afternoon and go to sleep in my chair.  Well, I can cope with that!

So what’s the problem then?

Here is the problem…

By 2051, there will be over 1.14 million people aged 65 years and over in New Zealand. This represents an increase of 715,000 or 166 percent over the base (1996) population. They are expected to make up 25.5 percent (or 1 in every 4) of all New Zealanders (4.49 million). At present there are about half as many elderly New Zealanders as children. By 2051, there are projected to be at least 60 percent more elderly than children. Given the prospects of sub-replacement fertility, increasing life expectancy and the passage of baby boomers into retirement ages, it is projected that half of all New Zealanders will be older than 46 years by 2051, compared with the current median age of 34 years.
http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/people_and_communities/older_people/pop-ageing-in-nz.aspx

So lets face it, there’s going to be a fair few senior citizens out there.  On a purely self-involved level I wonder if there will be enough quality resthome care, and if I’ll be able to afford it.  Will demand be so high that I sit on a waiting list for months before a place comes up?

But from my children’s perspective – this is what I think about…

The elderly group itself is ageing. The old-old (85 years and over) are expected to increase six-fold during the projection period, from 39,000 to over a quarter of a million by 2051. Then, they will make up 22 percent of all New Zealanders aged 65 years and over, compared with 9 percent in 1996. This has direct implications for health expenditure because there is a significant rise in the incidence of disability with age, and an increased need for health treatment and care, and social services.
http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/people_and_communities/older_people/pop-ageing-in-nz.aspx

So when I get really old, there will be a whole lot more of us needing a lot of help and support, which lets face it, costs MONEY…

So when this is happening now:
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/5732757/Elderly-fear-decline-in-home-care-services

And then I read this:

Dementia currently ranks as the fourth leading cause of death among the population aged 65 years and over. It currently affects more 41,000 people in New Zealand. By 2050 it is estimated this number will double.
http://www.nzdoctor.co.nz/un-doctored/2011/october-2011/28/dementia-rates-to-double,-calls-for-it-to-be-health-priority.aspx
It makes me think.  I wonder what kind of care I will get when I am old?  Will my children be able to help me, to provide the best care?  Will it be affordable?I want this generation to look beyond what we have now, and consider what we are doing for ourselves and for our children in the future.
At the national level, the main concerns are the sustainability of a taxpayer-funded superannuation, and the increased cost of providing health services for older people. At the regional and local levels there are planning implications for health-related issues (eg disability, mental health), for housing and accommodation, and for the provision of aged-care, transport, and community support services (eg meals on wheels).
http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/people_and_communities/older_people/pop-ageing-in-nz.aspx

I’m not saying I have the answers to these problems.  Rather that I hope we are open to talk about them.  There is no denying that it’s going to cost a fair bit of money in the coming years to ensure the years we are old are happy ones.

We have a growing number of New Zealander’s who simply do not have the ability to pay more.  They will need help.   Then there are people who can afford to pay more, but who do not want to.  They say no to paying more tax, they say no to increasing the retirement age, they say no to compulsory kiwi saver.

I’m not saying these are the perfect solutions, the perfect answers, but I do just ask you to stop telling me what you’re not going to do, and tell me what you are willing to do.

It’s not easy, it’s not simple, but we need to talk about it.  Our Politicians owe it to us to talk about it.  Refusing to talk about it, refusing to accept that changes need to happen, doesn’t seem logical.  More than twice as many people over 65.  We need to make a plan today, so that we are not a burden on our children tomorrow.

If you won’t help you – who will?  

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