Study: Housing crisis affecting health of elderly

New research is showing older people who are forced to rent may be suffering poorer health outcomes compared with those who own, and live, in their own homes.

The Massey University study is highlighting the societal impact New Zealand's housing crisis is having, particularly in the larger centres where unaffordability is growing.

Ninety-two-year-old Shirley Wright is not who you'd expect to be in a flatting situation, but living with 12 others, she couldn't be happier.

"It's much better living in an environment when you're older than living alone because when you live alone you imagine all sorts of things," Ms Wright says.

Ms Wright lives in Auckland's Abbeyfield House. It's a charity-run, shared accommodation and there are 15 around the country where volunteers help with the day-to-day running.

For Ms Wright, the sense of community and togetherness the home offers is vital for her wellbeing and happiness.

"Sometimes you want to talk to someone; sometimes you need to go to the doctor, but one of the other residents is always happy to take you," she says.

The new Massey University research shows poor health is a growing problem for elderly people who rent and live on their own.

"Renters are more likely to have lower levels of quality of life, and high levels of depression," Massey University researcher Professor Christine Stephens says.

With housing affordability at an all-time low, they expect the problem will become more widespread, particularly given New Zealand's ageing population.

Experts believe it's to do with feeling insecure and not getting out as much.

"They have more trouble going and interacting with their friends and family and just taking part in activities socially," Prof Stephens says.

It's something Abbeyfield House puts great emphasis on. Their residents eat together and get out every day.

"Having the support of living in a community helps people feel more integrated with the community; they don't have that sense of social isolation," Abbeyfield House's Jenny Baldwin says.

After 40 years of living on her own, Ms Wright never imagined she'd be flatting in her 90s, but she wishes she'd made the change sooner.