Contrary to public perception, few overseas-born elderly Asians own a house and many are living in poorly maintained dwellings.

The impact on the health and wellbeing of older Asians is set to be discussed at a two-day international health conference in Auckland starting tomorrow.

The Asian and Ethnic Minority Health and Wellbeing Conference will also focus on maternal health, primary health and community care, cultural competency and workforce development.

"There's a big concern over the poor living conditions, low rates of home ownership and the general unfamiliarity with New Zealand housing among the older Asian population," said Associate Professor Elsie Ho, University of Auckland's director of population mental health.


"It's probably worse in Auckland because of the high property prices, but current immigration policy means we will see older migrants from Asia continue to come."

Nearly six per cent of all Asians living in New Zealand, or 27,309, are aged 65 or over.

Ho said a study was underway to explore the impact of housing situation of older Asians and its impact on health and wellbeing.

"The older Asian migrants are really dependent on their children, and there is a small number who are being left here to fend for themselves after their children move back to their home country or somewhere else," Ho said.

A 2013 Official Information Act release revealed that nearly 3000 migrants who brought their parents here, 31 per cent from China, had permanently left New Zealand.

Chinese community leader Susan Zhu said many Chinese elderly faced loneliness, isolation and language difficulties.

"One solution is to have culturally appropriate rest homes, and the need has become even more pressing with this revelation of low home ownership rates," Zhu said.

Another conference speaker Dr Ruth de Souza, a Melbourne-based educator and researcher, will be addressing the role of culture in perinatal mental health.


Drawing on her work within maternal health services here and in Australia, she will be proposing ways how culturally safe care can be rethought.

More than 150 health practitioners, service providers, policy makers and researchers will attend the conference at the university's Tamaki Innovation Campus.


People aged 65+ home ownership rates
• European - 84%
• Maori - 63%
• Pacific - 50%
• Asian (NZ-born) - 81%
• Asian (overseas-born) - 68%
• Asian new settlers (under 10 years) - 60%
(Source: Associate Professor Elsie Ho)