My wife gave herself a special present when she retired at Christmas – even though she's not eligible for the pension until later this year – in order to study full-time.

While that's a shock to our cashflow, it helps, given the appallingly low rates even good early childhood educators earn, that we're used to getting by on the smell of an oily rag. And I suppose I can afford to lose some weight.

Still, it's bucking the trend, as more seniors are continuing to participate in the labour force until well past 65. The 25 per cent doing so now will grow to 30 per cent within 10 years, as the population continues to age.

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But as much as we've (mostly) enjoyed various tiddlers romping about our home for 15 years, we found ourselves sighing in relief that those days are over. Now all we have to worry about is the onslaught of grandchildren.

Part of that relief is this "not getting any younger" business taking its toll. I take my hat off to the hardy folk still doing regular work well into their 70s or even 80s, although the labour market is increasingly distorted by them doing so.

But while there may be an argument for "stepping aside" to let younger people take up their positions, an ageing population is a natural trend.

And it's not the "baby boomers" driving this demographic change; it's good health care reducing the death rate while the birth rate is also falling.

Statistics show the only segment of citizenry growing strongly is the over-65s. Every other band is more-or-less static.

Because we're living longer, in the 20 years between 2016 and 2036 the number of seniors will grow from 711,000 to 1,258,000, an increase of 77 per cent. Within that, numbers of over 80s will increase by 130 per cent and over-95s by 150 per cent.

Moreover the projected average lifespan of children born in 2014 is 90 years for boys and 93 for girls. So it's not a "boom then bust" scenario; the age-posts have shifted significantly, and society must adjust to this long-life reality.

One of those adjustments is around what it means to retire; in particular, the choices people have for continued enjoyment of life coupled with adequate provision of care, when needed.


Currently there is a dearth of choice for folk who reach the stage (voluntarily or otherwise) of deciding they need the security of a "common interest" set-up for their remaining years.

The corporate retirement village business has boomed to the point it often appears the only option. There are at least 17 corporate retirement villages in Hawke's Bay, with four more being built.

Sure, they have all the facilities you might need, and some people are perfectly happy spending their life savings for a "right to occupy" a unit in one, but frankly I can think of few worse fates than winding up in a corporate box with neighbours I don't know from Adam and a fee schedule that constantly drains my bank account on the pretext of obtaining "security" before I die.

Many still-productive folk are opting for the lifestyle block retirement – a surge in such sales in CHB is driven by them – but on a one-family basis that choice is health-limited.

We need better options. One movement providing some is so-called "intentional co-housing", where a group looks to create their own mini-village.

What that requires is for our councils to acknowledge the realities of a retired but still able population and support multiple dwellings on rural land for retirement purposes.

That's a district plan "tweak" we could all benefit from.