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Tai Kaumātuatanga

Discovering what matters to kaumātua in order to develop Māori-specific scales to help make sound policy decisions

Research Team

  • Dr Catherine Love
  • Professor Chris Cunningham
  • Charles Waldegrave
  • Dr Giang Nguyen
  • Shamia Love-Shariff
  • Wayne Makarini
  • Mike Deacon
  • Professor Linda Waimarie Nikora
  • Dr Teorongonui Josie Keelan
  • Professor Ngahuia Te Awekotuku
  • Dr Kiri Edge
  • Karen Okeroa McCrae
  • Monica Mercury
  • Dr Margaret Wilkie
  • Dr Michele Morris
  • Te Marae o Wainuiomata (Te Upoko-o-te-Ika - Te Awakairangi)
  • Te Marae o Kokiri (Te Upoko-o-te-Ika - Te Awakairangi)
  • Te Marae o Mangunu (Te Upoko-o-te-Ika- Te Awakairangi)
  • Te Putahitanga (Ngai Tahu - Te Waipounamu)
  • Ngāti Porou (Tairawhiti)
  • Ngāti Whakaue (Te Arawa)
  • Māori Women's Welfare League (Te Rau o Waitakere - Tamaki Mākaurau)
  • Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Mokopuna (Te Whanganui-a-Tara)
  • Taranaki Whanui (Te Ika-a-Maui)
  • Kia Hapai te Rama Pariha o Te Haahi Ratana (Manurewa, Tamaki Mākaurau ki te Tonga)

Aotearoa New Zealand is facing a significant population boom, though not in the usual sense. The number of Kiwis that fall into the 65+ age bracket is estimated to increase from 842,100 (currently) to 1,272,000 by 2038. That means that in the near future, almost 1 in 4 New Zealanders will be over 65.

Particularly for Māori, this sizeable demographic shift indicates a need for greater understanding about their strengths and vulnerabilities in order to ensure that services and policies can produce positive outcomes for Māori as they age. In response, a study, led by Dr Catherine Love of the Family Policy Research Centre, aims to investigate further what older Māori need in order to inform policy formation, environmental planning, and culturally responsive services.

Funded by Ageing Well National Science Challenge, the study programme has facilitated a strengthening of the important collaborative partnership between the research team at the Family Centre Social Policy Research Unit (FCSPRU), the Research Centre for Maori Health & Development (RCMHD) at Massey University, and Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga (NPM) from the University of Auckland.

About the research

Dr Love and her team are undertaking a large quantitative study with kaumātua throughout the motu, asking them about their experiences and quality of life. The survey will focus on key aspects of wellbeing including access to health services, the prevalence and depth of poverty, housing, asset accumulation, loneliness, discrimination, abuse, access to leisure, access to transport, proximity to services, connection to marae, connection to whānau, critical life shocks, spirituality, meaning, and purpose. Two years after the initial survey, the team will follow-up with the same participants to see how their responses have changed over the time period.

The second part of the study involves an in-depth qualitative study of kaumātuatanga (the role and status within whānau and the community attained by an individual in later life) within Ngāti Whakaue, one of the tribes of the Te Arawa confederation. Ngāti Whakaue kaumātua will be asked about their lives and their understanding of their roles, inter-generational relationships, and the knowledge they have to pass on, in the context of the past, present, and into the future. This deep dive into what it means to be kaumātua will complement the information generated by the large survey.

The research is designed in collaboration with older Māori participants, ensuring that the outcomes are beneficial for kaumātua and groups to which they belong. Ultimately, with the aim to provide better services and strengthen kaumātuatanga and kaumātua contribution to whānau and Aotearoa New Zealand.


The research is designed in collaboration with older Māori participants, with the aim to ultimately provide better services and strengthen kaumātuatanga and kaumātua contribution to whānau and Aotearoa New Zealand.

In the first phase of the quantitative study, the research team has carried out the co-creation hui with eight separate Iwi and urban Māori groups throughout the country, aged 50 years and over. They have explored with them their experiences and understanding of an important range of social indicators from their perspectives as older Māori. These have included loneliness, wellbeing, social connection, discrimination, abuse and neighbourhood wellbeing. The analysis and development of the Māori-specific scales for each of these indicators is are now complete.

What the research team has discovered is that the Māori-specific understandings of wellbeing, for example, were different in a number ways from the standard universal scales used in most of the ageing research internationally. They included particularly strong notions around whānau support, including tūpuna and mokopuna. Wairuatanga referring to spirituality in all of life, the impacts of society on the role of kaumātua today, respect and discrimination.

For research participants, whānau, hapu and marae were important in enabling a sense of belonging and social connection within the tikanga, and also as a place of wairuatanga and mātauranga. Respect was seen as an important wellbeing variable, along with comfortable, safe, and secure housing. Proper understanding and control of their health was seen as necessary, but kaumātua often experienced as something lacking in their interaction with medical professionals. Income needed to be sufficient for both manaakitanga and koha.

The current scales used for policy and service provision are blunt, universal instruments. They do not take in into consideration the Māori world view and experience. Dr Love and her research team are showing us that this does not have to be the case. Their findings are helping to develop Māori-specific scales that can provide much more Māori-specific data for policy making and service provision to help older Māori age well.

The study is currently ongoing.