As I foreshadowed in my previous blog, the Seniors’ Minister Tracey Martin released a discussion document in Auckland on 12th April and opened consultation on a new ageing strategy. There is much to admire in this document and very little to disagree with. I am sure,it will stimulate a lot of discussion and comment.
One feature is the extensive use of Te Reo Maori, with the Maori titles of sub-sections coming before the English, for example Te take me whakahou – The case for change. Along with National Programme news, this provides a gentle nudge for all of us to become more familiar with an official language of Aotearoa/New Zealand. Spread throughout are meaningful quotes and sayings in a variety of languages and scripts, such as –
ਚੰਗੀ ਮੈਟ ਚਾਹੋ ਤਾਂ ਬੁੱਢੇ ਨੂੰ ਪੁੱਛਣ ਜਾਓ.
Need a good piece of advice? Consult an old person.
In her introduction, the Minister notes that the document reflects submissions made by many people and groups in 2018 on what a new strategy for an ageing population should cover. She emphasises the need to see beyond the tendency to look at the ageing population only in terms of what it will cost and recognises the role of all, from central and local government to families, whānau and individuals, working together. These holistic views permeate the document, referring to other policy strategies already in place. I believe that the Healthy Ageing Strategy, 2016 will be a valuable source, with its life-course approach.
“I want this strategy to be different, looking more broadly at how people can have better later lives and also recognising the significant contribution older people have made and continue to make to New Zealand.”
Brilliant! The full document is available at http://superseniors.msd.govt.nz/about-superseniors/ageing-population/better-later-life-report/index.html. Here is a brief outline with my comments.
Another accolade from me is the acknowledgement of difference and diversity throughout, starting with the definitions –
“Older people” is used to mean people aged 65+ but recognises that people
age differently and have different aspirations and needs.”
The next generation of older people, now aged 50-64, is recognised and “older worker” is used to mean people aged 50+ working or seeking work. I was especially pleased to see a clear statement that New Zealand does not have a retirement age. It irritates me intensely when “retirement age” is used in the media and elsewhere, suggesting that retirement is compulsory (or universally expected) at age 65.
After stating its Vision and Guiding Principles (diversity, value, safety), the document sets out five key areas for action-
- Preparing for financial and economic security (including through employment)
- Improving access to health and social services
- Providing housing choices and options so people can age in the community
- Enhancing opportunities for social connection and participation
- Providing accessible built environments so people can participate in their community.
Consistent with the emphasis on diversity, the document frequency calls for wider options for older people – in housing, employment, transport and ways of saving for later life. Forward-looking considerations are noted, calling for reaction. These include the prospect of higher levels of poverty among older people, especially as a result of falling levels of home ownership; higher insurance and rating costs; the need for workforce change with higher participation by older people; higher debt levels among older people; and the effects of climate change. Looking broadly, we need to recognise the need for adjustment to change, which applies to all generations and all areas of life.
After each section -topic by topic – there is a text box “What we want to achieve”, for example –
“People have equitable access to the social services they need to support them to live well. “
This is followed by “What needs to happen”. Most of the actions specified are aspirational and general, without details of implementation. This, the document states, will come in an Action Plan to be developed over the next two years (hopefully some action will come sooner). For example –
“Encourage people to stay as fit and healthy as they can throughout their lives.”
“Build recognition of the importance of cultural diversity in the design and provision of social services. “
As I read the document, I mentally applied ticks of approval many of the statements, perhaps because they reflected my own propensities and the outcomes of my research, especially in the areas of employment and housing. I very much applaud the points on p.26, headed “Paid work and Business Owners”, about providing opportunities for upskilling and for older entrepreneurship. In housing, the emphasis is on remaining in the community, which will have numerous advantages –
“Ageing in the community safely and independently can improve older people’s physical and mental health and wellbeing, and social connectedness. It also reduces the chances and period of time that older people are in residential care services.”
Just a few requests – I would like to see more about prevention in a discussion of elder abuse. Only a very brief mention under safety (p.39). I think there should be more emphasis on walking and pedestrian safety. Also, when showing figures for employment of older people, there should be a breakdown by age, 65 plus is not enough.
Submission are due by June 3 – only a month away. I had better get on with mine!