As the General Election approaches, key organisations involved in promoting healthy and respectful ageing and the wellbeing of older people in Aotearoa New Zealand are calling on all political parties to commit to the principles of the United Nation’s Decade of Healthy Ageing and to work collaboratively towards a society where all people can live long and healthy lives.
In the week which started off with the UN International Day of Older Persons (1 October) and closes with Ageism Awareness Day (7 October), registered charity The Selwyn Foundation has hosted an inaugural hui in association with Age Concern New Zealand. This brought together many of the influential organisations from across the sector, with a view to collaborating to bring about transformational change, combat ageism and enable New Zealand to become a better place for all of us to grow older.
Drawing together government agencies, charitable trusts, academics and providers of housing, healthcare and social services for older people, the think-tank focussed on how it might promote, develop and deliver on an Aotearoa New Zealand Decade of Healthy Ageing Action Plan for the long-term benefit of individuals and communities.
The UN Decade of Healthy Ageing (2021-2030) encourages all parts of the system (including governments, businesses, the community and voluntary sector, universities, philanthropy and the media) to join together to contribute to ten years of concerted action to improve the lives of older people, their families and their communities. The four main areas for action over the decade are:
Change how we think, feel and act towards age and ageing;
Foster the abilities of older people;
Deliver integrated care and primary health services responsive to the needs of older people; and
Provide access to long-term care for older people who need it.
Cutting across these action areas is the need to reduce social isolation and loneliness and to prevent the abuse of older people. To achieve the vision of the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing, the collaboration are looking to work with others to:
Boost the voices of older people and ensure they can have meaningful input;
Learn from the experiences of others in New Zealand and around the world;
Grow leadership and the ability to take action across sectors; Strengthen data and research, and encourage innovation.
Commenting on the initiative, The Selwyn Foundation’s Chief Executive, Denise Cosgrove said: ‘New Zealand’s yet to fully embrace this global opportunity. Therefore, we’re calling for a collaborative, integrated approach to improving the experience of ageing so that all older New Zealanders are respected, their needs prioritised and their ongoing contributions to society valued.
‘While the ageing of our population – where one in five of us are going to be older than 65 in the next five years – presents challenges in how Government should best respond in providing funding and services, this longevity also represents huge potential. Our current employment practices, infrastructure, public transport and housing policies can make it hard for us to stay involved and engaged as we age. We can, however, create innovative solutions which would allow us to harness the energy of an ageing population through older people’s contributions as entrepreneurs, workers, carers and volunteers. In addition, this creates real opportunity for economic growth through innovation in the design of products, services and support catering to the needs of people as they age.
‘As we work together and advocate on this issue on behalf of our kaumātua kuia/older people, we urge all political parties and the incoming Government to commit to doing more to achieve the vision of the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing. The current focus on the age of eligibility for superannuation misses the huge opportunities for New Zealand to be world leaders in creating an ageless society. As a collaboration of organisations known for our focus on older people, we’ve agreed to begin work on developing an integrated strategy for New Zealand – which will look at all aspects of how we live, work and stay healthy as we age and bring a uniquely Aotearoa New Zealand perspective. We invite others with an interest to join us in this.’
Further information on the UN Decade of Health Ageing Plan of Action 2021-2030 is available at: https://cdn.who.int/media/docs/default-source/decade-of-healthy-ageing/decade-proposal-final-apr2020-en.pdf