Over 55s needed for survey on ageing in NZ  

Maintaining good health in older years is vital for positive ageing (photo/Wikimedia commons)

Working hard or life of leisure? Loner or linchpin for your whānau? Fighting fit or fending off aches and pains? Massey University researchers are seeking 400 people aged over 55 to do an online survey that will contribute to research and knowledge on health and ageing in New Zealand.

The New Zealand Health, Work and Retirement study has been following groups of older people since 2006. It is the longest running study of older adults in New Zealand and the findings are widely shared with organisations such as Age Concern and government agencies.

Surveying everything from technology and work, to social life, housing, caregiving and alcohol consumption, findings from the studies have provided a decade of critical information, which is used for evidence-based government policy as well as public awareness and preparedness.

Researchers have conducted hard copy surveys of people randomly selected from the electoral roll over the past decade. Now, they are piloting an online version and are hoping enough over 55-year-olds will find a few spare minutes while relaxing over the summer break to answer some simple multi-choice questions on lifestyle, wellbeing, relationships, finances and expectations.

Participants who are interested in doing the online survey then have the opportunity to do a hard copy version, which will be posted to them. Researchers want to compare and assess consistency across online and hard copy formats, says Vicki Beagley. She is the Junior Research Officer with the Health and Ageing Research Team (HART) at Massey’s School of Psychology, who is coordinating the latest survey.

The aim of this survey is not to gather data for analysis, but to establish the feasibility of offering both online and hard copy formats for future studies, she says. “We need to maintain the integrity of the study – as participants take part every two years, more of them are internet savvy and it’s hoped they’ll prefer to respond online so we need to cater for this. Participants are helping us by giving both types of responses.”

Online surveys will allow some participants to return their information more easily, reduce the environmental impact of the study, and significantly reduce costs, she says.

Professor Fiona Alpass and Professor Christine Stephens, who are leading the Health and Ageing Research Team (HART).

Understanding needs of NZ's growing older population

The research – funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment – will canvas a range of topics for the next five years, with a focus on issues such as how and at what stage people transition towards retirement, and how well businesses and employers are adapting to the needs of older workers wanting to reduce hours.

The research is vital to understanding the needs of New Zealand’s rapidly growing over 65 population, which is projected to double over the next 30 years, making up 25 per cent of the population by 2040. The number of the “oldest-old” (those aged 85 and over) will expand more than five-fold to constitute five per cent of the population.

Lead investigators with HART, Professor Fiona Alpass and Professor Christine Stephens, say that ageing well is determined by multiple social and individual factors that have been the focus of their research.

The latest survey asks questions about health, social connections, work, and housing. If you are interested, follow the link to the study information sheet here. To find out more: http://www.massey.ac.nz/hart/ or email hart@massey.ac.nz or call 0800 100 134.


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