In a keynote address at the 2018 Selwyn Centres Annual Conference, Director of the Office for Seniors, Diane Turner, told delegates that dramatic demographic changes in the senior community required the country to take a fresh look at the issues, and questions, that matter for older people.
The Office is therefore in the midst of a nationwide consultation process – which runs until 24 August 2018 – in preparation for developing a new strategy for the ageing population and action plan, so New Zealand can respond effectively to these demographic changes.
The ‘Community Connections’-themed conference at Auckland’s Selwyn Village brought together coordinators, volunteers and parish committee members of The Selwyn Foundation’s network of 40 community drop-in centres for older people (‘Selwyn Centres’) which are located across Greater Auckland, Northland, the Waikato and in Christchurch.
At the event, Ms Turner said: “The need for a new ageing strategy stems largely from significant population trends as well as changes in attitude about growing older. Currently, there are 723,000 people aged 65 and over – that represents 15% of New Zealanders. Estimates are that, by 2038, 1.3 million people will be over 65 – almost a quarter of the population.
“This future cohort will generally be healthier than their 2018 counterparts. They’ll live longer and will have quite different expectations, and perspectives, on the ageing process. Many will be working past the ‘traditional’ retirement age and will want to play a more active role in planning for their future.
“At the same time, we are promoting the creation of ‘Age-friendly communities’,” said Ms Turner. “This is based on a World Health Organisation concept founded on a number of principles that cover: people’s respect for themselves and their community; access to appropriate resources including technology; more of a multi-generational community make-up; and opportunities for participation and engagement in all aspects of life.
“Regardless of age, people want to be safe and to feel supported. They want a place to call home and have the ways and means to be able to connect with their communities of choice,” she said.
The Selwyn Centres are a community-based partnership initiative between charitable trust, The Selwyn Foundation, and local Anglican parishes. They provide opportunities for older people to meet others in their neighbourhood and to socialise in a friendly and welcoming environment, whilst enjoying a lively programme of social activities, gentle exercise, morning tea and occasional trips out and about. Held mostly in Anglican church halls, they serve an ethnically diverse population and welcome older people of all faiths and backgrounds who may live alone or may be in need of friendship, help and support.
The Selwyn Foundation’s Chief Executive Officer Garry Smith says that, from their beginnings in 2000 – when the first Selwyn Centre opened – they have provided opportunities for older people to connect with a caring and supporting group within their local community.
“People need this sense of belonging throughout life, but particularly as they get older,” he says. “Remaining socially connected also has a positive effect on general health and can bring psychological benefits, such as delaying the onset of dementia.
“As an organisation, we’re fully behind the work of the Office for Seniors in developing a new strategy for an ageing population and designing meaningful policy to address the key issues affecting older people. We look forward to being part of this discussion and to sharing our insights and experiences – especially on the importance of spirituality as part of the ‘whole person’ approach to wellbeing – so that life can be made better for the nation’s senior citizens, now and in the future.”