But the number of suicides by the elderly aged 60-plus jumped from 75 in both the previous two years to 97 in the latest year, almost equaling youth suicides in numbers.But there is another side to the story.
The increase in the suicide rate per 100,000 people was muffled because of our aging population, but Judge MacLean pointed to social changes that made older people increasingly isolated.
"It's a raft of things - the loneliness of elderly people, the whole environment of rest homes, palliative care, all that sort of thing," he said.
"We see the phenomenon in Western society, unlike some societies where several generations live together - that is perhaps the traditional Maori way as well - we see that changing. You become old, you move into state-subsidised or state-funded care and you are isolated in many cases from your whanau or family, and that is part of a phenomenon of the Western way of life," he said.
"Personally from my perspective, I think that is something not particularly helpful for a sense for the elderly person that they still have a point to living, feel worthwhile, are valued."
Two dear friends of mine ended their lives earlier this year. They knew exactly what they were doing and why. They were always positive, engaged, curious, good-humoured and in love with each other. Their children lived within minutes and saw them frequently if not daily. They were surrounded by love and support. But they were physically ailing, feared the loss of their independence. And, I believe, the prospect of not being able to care for each other..
Yes the trend to elderly suicide is going to increase.And I am not alarmed by the prospect. Elderly eople, particularly those diagnosed with a physical or mental degenerative condition, have every right to decide to avoid a bleak future. Their lives belong to them, to choose to do with as they wish.