Part 1: Introduction

Using the United Nations' Madrid indicators to better understand our ageing population.

In this Part, we discuss:

Preparing and addressing the Madrid indicators

In 2012, the United Nations Population Fund co-published a report on the progress made since 2002 in putting into effect the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (the Madrid Plan).1 The Madrid Plan set out to address the opportunities and challenges of ageing in the 21st century. A list of 50 demographic, outcome, and instrumental (building block) indicators (the Madrid indicators) was prepared to track progress in putting the Madrid Plan into effect. Appendix 1 lists the Madrid indicators.

In 2007, New Zealand published its mid-term report to the United Nations on progress meeting the Madrid Plan's objectives.2 A detailed report considering each of the Madrid indicators, including statistics, was not part of New Zealand's report. Our project was the first to report on each of the Madrid indicators for New Zealand.

Why we reported on the Madrid indicators

One way or another, a lot of public resources will be committed to responding to an ageing population. Governments are likely to spend more on superannuation, healthcare, and social support care, such as home-based support services and aged residential care. Therefore, this is an important topic for everybody, not only older people.

In our view, having the right kind of data is one component in producing good quality central and local government policy and services that respond to an ageing population. Data can be used to identify whether there have been improvements or adverse consequences over time. Data supports more accountable and transparent decision-making.

We looked for a way of seeing whether New Zealand's public entities had a set of data available to use to prepare for and respond to an ageing population. We found an international benchmark in the Madrid indicators. Because the results for all the Madrid indicators had not previously been brought together, we decided to report on whether the results of the Madrid indicators showed improvements for older people over time. In theory, having building blocks should produce improvements.

We progressively published our findings online to make the results available more quickly and our work more transparent. We hope that people will use the links in the findings to explore the wide range of data that is publicly available.

We expect our work to answer some questions and raise others. We hope that this report will stimulate discussion among public entities, parliamentarians, and the public.

The public entities involved

Reporting on the Madrid indicators requires collecting data from many public entities. We got some information from non-government organisations. Appendix 1 lists the organisations that held data for each indicator or were lead public entities for the topic.

This work differed from our customary performance audits because we did not audit the work of one or a group of public entities in a sector or progress in achieving the goals and objectives of a specific policy or programme. Instead, the Madrid indicators report on the cumulative effects of successive governments' policies and public entities' achievements over many years.

What this report does and does not do

Appendix 2 gives more detail about how we analysed the data. In this Part of our report, we want to emphasise that we have reported only on what the Madrid indicators tell us about our ageing population and data collection and reporting practices – not what any other indicators might tell us.

We were pragmatic and flexible when public entities had data that was similar, but not identical, to a Madrid indicator. For example, we began by collecting data for people aged at least 60. We quickly changed to collecting data for people aged at least 65, because this age group is more commonly used to define older age in our country and data for this age group was easier to get.

We rounded numbers and percentages to the nearest whole number unless we had a good reason not to. Our findings for each indicator contain more detailed data, including the sources of data, and are available on our website at We posted a few blogs at We may publish more blogs in coming months.

Various data sets use different and sometimes inconsistent names to refer to ethnicities, including New Zealand European, Pākehā, and non-Māori. In this report, we use the term used in the source data.

1: United Nations Population Fund and HelpAge International (2012), Ageing in the Twenty-First Century: A Celebration and A Challenge, available at

2: Office for Senior Citizens, Ministry of Social Development (2007), Report from New Zealand/Aotearoa to the Commission for Social Development, United Nations, February 2007: Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, available at

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