A leading New Zealand expert on the needs of the elderly says the Western Bay needs to prepare for the time when more than one in every 10 people will be aged over 85.
Tauranga gerontologist Carole Gordon said Western Bay's projected population of 275,000 people by 2051 would include 36,000 people older than 85 - 13 per cent of the population.
Ms Gordon yesterday highlighted why society needed better planning to cope with the increasingly older demographic that was already underway with the ageing of the post-war baby boomers.
She was speaking during public submissions on SmartGrowth, Western Bay's urban growth masterplan which has now grown to encompass social planning.
Speaking on behalf of the organisation she helped found, Seniors United to Promote Age-Friendly New Zealand (Supa NZ), Ms Gordon said SmartGrowth needed to deal with the higher number of people living longer.
She said that living longer meant living more, and that was why having liveable communities was so important. It meant not having people who were frail travelling all over Tauranga to reach the services they needed, but to have community and home-based care.
Ms Gordon called for a specialist think-tank to do the deeper work needed to plan for liveable communities.
She said urban intensification was no good if it did not include planning to supply the services needed to support older people and help them maintain their independence.
Ms Gordon also wanted SmartGrowth to focus on the growing social inequality in society. She said addressing social inequality needed to be a working principle behind economic development, otherwise there would be increasing inequality and poverty.
"We cannot afford that - it is socially unjust."
She said it was true some people got grumpy in their old age but that was because they were not connected to the world anymore and the world had moved outside them.
"We need a more inclusive city."
Ms Gordon urged councils to look at the opportunities.
"These people want to do things, they may contribute hugely given half a chance."