Big rise in over-65s projected

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Waitaki’s population is projected to grow marginally over the next three decades, with the number of residents aged over 65 set to grow considerably.

Statistics New Zealand released its subnational population projections, 2013 (base)-2043, last week, which project the age structure of populations in regional and territorial authority areas around the country.

The Waitaki district’s population was 21,400 in 2013, with the largest grouping, 7600, aged between 40 and 64.

That was followed by 5200 people in the 15 to 39 age bracket, while there were 4700 people aged 65 or over.

People aged 0 to 14 made up the lowest number, at 4000.

That number is projected to stay the same by 2043, while the number of 15- to 39-year-olds is set to rise by 200 to 5400.

The biggest concern for Waitaki, however, is the drop in those aged 40-64, who will move into the 65-plus bracket over the next 25 years.

The number of people in the 40-64 age range is projected to drop by 1200 by 2043, while the number aged 65-plus is set to increase by 2100 and make up almost 30% of the total population.

Waitaki Age Concern manager Wayne Stringer said having more people aged 65 and over would put pressure on health services.

“We’re talking about medical services mainly but also things like rest-homes. There will be more people going into care and more people required for home care. I think district health boards have a role to play in terms of services too.”

He said a proposed multimillion-dollar retirement village, on the site known locally as “Hospital Hill”, which would provide a range of services and facilities for the independent elderly and through to those requiring rest-home or hospital-level care, would help, as would more involvement from local health authorities.

However, he wasn’t convinced a retirement village was necessarily the best option for Oamaru.

“We’re a blue-collar town. It’s all very well to have a retirement village that costs $300,000 to $350,000 for a live-in unit, but our people just don’t have that money.”

He believed the shape care for dementia took was also vital.

“I don’t think people have their heads around it. Dementia is on the increase and we need facilities and more of an understanding about dementia.”

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said the prospect of an ageing population was “concerning”, but he was confident it could be well-managed.

“If we can drive job growth and opportunities for young people to stay here or young ones to come here, we will beat these projections … It’s a strong focus for us. We are mindful of the whole situation. We are working with rest-homes and the hospital company to set up the retirement home. It’s about catering for the demand that will happen.”

Waitaki’s overall population is projected to increase minimally over the next three decades to 22,600, only 1200 more than in 2013. The district’s median age is 45.8, but is expected to be 47.5 by 2043.

By Daniel Birchfield