Senior New Zealanders feel nearly 20 years younger than their age and most believe others see them as younger than they are, a survey has found.

The study, by senior housing charity Abbeyfield and AUT University, marks the United Nations' International Day of Older Persons today.

It surveyed 611 people aged over 50 and found they felt, on average, 19.5 years younger than their years.

About a third had experienced age discrimination.


Just over half - 56.5 per cent - lived with family and 31.8 per cent lived alone. But of those alone, 39.1 per cent wanted to live with others.

The survey found 85.8 per cent of those questioned believed others viewed them as younger than they were, and only 2.6 per cent thought they were seen as older.

Abbeyfield is a not-for-profit society providing mixed flatting for senior citizens.

Its Auckland branch chairman, Terry Foster, said the survey results showed age could be a case of mind over matter.

"I see it every day in the residents living life to the fullest in our shared houses," he said.

"Older people these days are active, independent and don't want to be kept on the sidelines any more."

He was concerned by the finding that a third had experienced age discrimination, saying New Zealand had an ageing population and could not marginalise older people.

"Clearly it's having a detrimental psychological effect on a lot of people."


Older people provided value and experience and would be increasingly important to the economy as more people worked past the retirement age.

"Age discrimination has to stop. We have to get real and start looking after our senior people a lot better," Mr Foster said.

Other poll findings:

* 12 per cent lived in shared living arrangements.

* 12 per cent believed that others viewed them as their actual age.

* 45.5 per cent felt big events such as the Rugby World Cup and Fashion Week ignored older people.That was highlighted by a fashion parade yesterday where the "world's oldest models" showcased clothes by Zambesi, Robyn Mathieson, Pearl and other top designers.

The 75- to 95-year-old models strutted their stuff at Auckland's LynnMall in a show MC'd by actor Theresa Healey.

Model Kath Johnstone, 93, said older people could do anything.

"We should be seen and heard rather than just shoved in the background," she said.

The study found the top six most common concerns among senior citizens were loneliness, having enough income in retirement, the increasing price of goods and services, being ignored or not taken seriously by younger people, health problems and costs, and boredom.APNZ