Older Maori living longer put down to healthy lifestyles
The older generation is living longer because the traditional Maori lifestyle consisted of much more physical work and a basic diet, says Connie Rasmussan
Ms Rasmussan is a trustee and former manager of Nga Whakatauki Trust, which focuses on community health programmes.
Ms Rasmussan (67) bases her opinion on the lifestyle she and many of her family grew up with.
“It was about being healthy. We didn’t have much sugar, and if we did it was quite rare,” says Ms Rasmussan.
“All I had was plain meat, vegetables and potatoes. It was a different diet.”
Statistics New Zealand population project manager Jo-Anne Skinner says there are now about 5000 Māori over the age of 80, while 10 years ago there were only 2400.
“According to our estimates, the proportion of Māori men living longer has also been growing faster in the past decade, ” Ms Skinner says.
The figures are part of the department’s Maori population estimates.
“The proportion of older Maori is still lower than in the general population, where around 159,600 people are over the age of 80.”
Ms Rasmussan was raised on a market farm by her Chinese grandfather and Maori grandmother, and she says the change of culture is a key factor.
“There was always work to be done, in huge gardens, like the old Auckland airport. You were out early after breakfast, and even the children, if they were not out gardening, looked after the shops.”
Rasmussan keeps herself fit, choosing to walk most days instead of taking the bus.
She believes this is why Maori her age are surviving for so long.
“They are aging quickly, but keeping fit. Keeping fit is a key point, as the older generation of Maori saw themselves as land-keepers, and with their work they kept very fit.”
Statistics New Zealand figures shows there are currently 682,200 Maori living in New Zealand’s population of more than four million.
Maori make up 15.4% of the population, up from 15.1% in 2002. That rate of change is slower than in the previous decade (1992–2002), when the Maori population grew from 13.6% to 15.1% of the total.
The median age of the Maori population has been rising far more slowly, from 20.3 in 1992 to 23.2 in 2012.