Older people experiencing vulnerability and multiple disadvantage in New Zealand

Older people experiencing vulnerability and multip…
30 Jun 2023


Older people experiencing vulnerability and multiple disadvantage in New Zealand uses the Integrated Data Infrastructure to understand the experiences and characteristics of people aged 65 and older in Aotearoa New Zealand. It measures the needs of older people exploring the domains of health, housing, finance, social connection, and access.

This work supports actions under the Government’s Better Later Life Strategy Action Plan 2021-2024 – He Mahere Hohenga


This analysis focussed on estimating and characterising older people’s experiences of vulnerability. We were particularly interested in understanding people’s experiences of vulnerability across multiple domains, as this helps us identify overlapping and more complex needs. We defined an experience of overlapping vulnerabilities or vulnerability in two or more domains as multiple disadvantage.

We use the terms ‘vulnerability’ and ‘multiple disadvantage’ as they help capture the complexity and unique nature of older people’s needs. While these terms are deficit focussed, our aim is to create an evidence base that will help policy makers asses where the greatest and most complex needs lie. This approach helps us consider the types of circumstances a person might be experiencing that point towards the risk of poor life outcomes. We do not consider vulnerability as a definitive state but rather as an experience. Further, understanding risk factors a person might be vulnerable to (and using our data to determine the size of the need), also helps us understand resilience factors. While we identify older people’s experiences of vulnerability, the BLL Strategy identifies features of resilience for older people in each of the domains (Office for Seniors, 2021).

Our approach was further tested with an Expert Advisory Group for this project which MSD brought together for the purpose of advising on the direction and delivery of this project. This group is made up of sector experts who confirmed that a focus on multiple disadvantage would best capture the complex spectrum of older people’s needs.

Key Results

This study measures the needs of older people in multiple life domains using the Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI). It addresses an important knowledge gap on experiences of older New Zealanders across these domains. Through this work, we have established a more nuanced understanding of the experiences of older New Zealanders who are often characterised as a homogenous group that experiences better outcomes than the rest of the population.

This work provides an overview of need, including the size and the characteristics of older people experiencing vulnerability. It provides insights into where the overlapping vulnerabilities (or multiple disadvantages) across domains are most prevalent; and where the most acute need may lie.

Page last modified: 04 Jul 2023