'Grey tsunami' to drown healthcare if nothing is done - expert Thursday, 24 July 2014

NZ Doctor Online

An expert taskforce should be established to find solutions to the economic issues in healthcare affecting older New Zealanders, a retirement policy researcher says.

The "grey tsunami" is very real and it needs focused attention, rather than the piecemeal approach New Zealand currently has, University of Auckland retirement policy associate professor Susan St John says.

"It seems like the politicians underestimate the enormity of this issue," Dr St John told New Zealand Doctor.

Dr St John spoke at last night's University of Auckland presentation series, "The Ballot Box", which this week focused on healthcare.

She says middle-income New Zealanders seem to underestimate how long they will live, with some spending most of their savings earlier in their retirement.

This adds pressure to the healthcare system, considering the more expensive long-term health treatments occur later in life, she says.

Currently, those aged 65 and above account for 33 per cent of the total crown health expenditure, although they comprise only 13.9 per cent of the total population.

Dr St John expects these numbers will increase further in the next 15 to 20 years, and the burden of care will be passed on to the children and grandchildren.