Cost of living crisis: 'Proud' elderly 'quietly starving' in their homes as they battle to afford food

Elderly people around New Zealand are "distressed" over the battle to afford food as the cost of living crisis continues to bite. 

Data released by Stats NZ last month showed the cost of living for the average household increased by 8.2 percent in the 12 months to December 2022.

Data provided by Financial Mentors showed some elderly have as little as $18 a week for any emergencies or medical expenses.

Ngāi Te Rangi chief executive Paora Stanley told AM on Wednesday the cost of living crisis is hitting the elderly community particularly hard. 

"We did a distribution to about 300 of our kaumātua and what we found was a lot of our kaumātua were quite distressed because they had very little food," he said. 

"We feel that stretched across a lot of society, particularly elder kaumātua society." 

Stanley said a number of elderly people are too "proud" to come forward and say they're struggling during the crisis. 

"We're dealing with a very different group of people who are extremely proud and that's one of the problems that we've found. They're too proud to come forward and I understand that and so they're quietly starving in their houses," he explained. 

"That's horrendous and it's horrendous for us as an iwi as well to be able to try to help our people, but we don't know where and they're not coming out and we've got to find ways of releasing them from their own hell they're living in." 

Appearing alongside Stanley, social scientist Carole Gordon told AM many elderly people are being forced to continue working into their retirement just to get by. 

"I want to talk to the overall problem, which is our policy frameworks haven't shifted to address the issue of population ageing, even though it's been known for 75 years at least ... so we've got a number of 85 plus people who can't manage longevity in a house even if they own it, which has its own long life costs," Gordon told AM.

Stanley added the COVID-19 pandemic also had a major influence on the elderly, with many stuck in their home in fear they would get the virus. 

"We started doing distributions during COVID and COVID has taken a hell of an impact on our kaumātua," he said.

"They were afraid to go out, it restricted them severely, they had limited associations with their friends and it impacted them quite heavily." 

Watch the full interview with Paora Stanley and Carole Gordon above.