Intro photo

Dr Judith Davey

Voluntary Policy Advisor for Age Concern New Zealand  |  Senior Research Associate with the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies at Victoria University of Wellington.

Dr Davey has an avid interest in older people and ageing and contributes her research, knowledge and experience through this blog for Age Concern New Zealand.

“I cannot remember ever actually deciding what I was going to be when I grew up. After seeing the Tutankhamen exhibition in Cairo at the age of 10, I was determined to become an archaeologist. Then I read a book about archaeology in Europe and realised that it involved a lot of digging in muddy trenches. That changed my mind. Discovering treasures in ancient tombs did not seem to be an everyday activity for archaeologists.

I studied Geography and Anthropology at London University, thinking, well, I could always teach. That led on to a Ph.D. at Durham University and post-doctoral work at Cambridge. One step came after the other as opportunities opened up to me. Somehow I had become a researcher.

I now have half a century of research experience behind me. This has been very varied, both in terms of subject and venue. I studied urban development in Iran and industrial location in India. Once in New Zealand I turned my hand to planning research at the Ministry of Works, which then ran most of the country.

In order to achieve the working hours and conditions which suited a mother of small children, I formed a partnership with a woman in the same position and became a consultant, in the days before everyone was. There was once a parliamentary question asking who these women were who were being paid the exorbitant rate of $4 an hour (this was the 1970s!).

Having tried to secure a university position ever since I arrived in New Zealand, I achieved this goal after twenty years. By this time I had retrained myself as a social policy specialist. I had done research on contract for a range of central and local government agencies, as well as private sector firms and voluntary organisations. I had worked for the New Zealand Planning Council, once my children were in school. The Planning Council was a wonderful organisation, where social, economic, environmental and cultural trends were brought together to examine their policy implications. I rose to the role of Deputy Director at the Planning Council before leaving for Victoria University in 1991.

The first course I taught at Victoria was An Introduction to Social Policy. I seemed to have a very free hand so I focused on how social trends and social policy interacted with each other, placing a strong emphasis on current issues. Having started up a Social Monitoring Group at the Planning Council I continued to produce a series of books called From Birth to Death which looked at trends in the New Zealand population, using a life stage framework.

It became very clear to me that population ageing was not only a very significant social trend, but that it affected all aspects of policy at all levels of society. This led me to work with others to set up the New Zealand Institute for Research on Ageing, of which I was the first Director.

I left this position in 2007 and moved into what I call ‘the stage of life formerly known as retirement’. I believe that what used to be called retirement (literally withdrawal and seclusion) should be a time of opportunity – to create a portfolio of activities, which may include unpaid and paid work, caring, travel, leisure and hobbies, not forgetting quiet reflection and reminiscence. It should also be a time when older people “give back” to others and to succeeding generations – what the psychologists call “generativity”. This is the reason for offering Age Concern NZ my services as a voluntary advisor and contributor to the web site. I write short pieces on current research on ageing and how it can be applied in practical situations – to help everyone understand the implications of ageing, especially the positive ones; to try to improve the lives of older people and to promote active and positive ageing.

I welcome your comments and suggestions on this idea – please let me know what you think and what you would like to know.”

7 Responses to Author

  1. Arthur Buckland-Pinnock says:

    Hello Dr. Judith,

    I have recently entered into the arena of the original topic on the Age Concern site of suicide for elderly men.Posting this comment keeps up your average 1 comment per year since your original post.
    This begs the question A, Have you done any more research into the subject since your original post , and if so, what were the results? and B, obviously this site is not the forum for the subject to be discussed judging by the lack of response. This is an observation, not a criticism. I have no knowledge of possibly hundreds of responses made direct to you and not shared publicly.
    It also highlights that possibly this is not the forum to persue my research into what facilities are available for the targetted demagogue
    I came across your original post by accident, researching the subject of what is available to elderly, single, alone men in New Zealand who cannot afford a retirement home.
    I cannot email you directly, so hope this comment creates a response.
    yours aye,

    Arthur Buckland


  2. Mat Brown says:

    As an architect it’s great to have discovered this resource. Thanks Judith and Age Concern! We’ll certainly be reviewing this information in an effort to help make our retirement living projects better.


    Mathew Brown
    Warren and Mahoney Architects


  3. Thomas Taylor says:

    Hi Judith,

    My wife and I have recently moved into a retirement village and it seems the current business model for retirement villages relies on cash (most commonly from a house sale) being available so a ‘Right to Occupy’ or ‘Licence to Occupy’ can be bought. Currently well over a third of New Zealanders are renting and the proportion is increasing. Renters won’t have the assets to buy into a retirement village so what will happen in a decade or two (or three)’s time when the current business model won’t be practicable?

    All the best.

    Tom Taylor.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Malcolm Douglass says:

    Judith Davey

    Good to see you emerging in this role for Grey Power.
    I enjoyed your introduction and the material on the changing scene for us oldies.
    We are all part of it and I am pleased to say I find the former colleagues in LGA, PCE, NZPI, SOLGM and IPENZ are patient and appreciate serious and light heated comment on the passing parade and the current trends to a centralist government directing of planning. This trend has become very explicit in the past 2 or 3 years.

    I will watch and read your commentaries on research with interest. I wish you well in this vocation and your recreation of your role in research and commentary on trends in our community governance and planning.

    Go well

    Malcolm Douglass


    • Thank you so much for the feedback Malcolm. This blog isn’t coming through GreyPower though…Judith is our policy volunteer at Age Concern NZ! Could you please provide me with your email as Judith wants to speak with you further 🙂 Thanks, Kirsty-Fundraising Coordinator Age Concern NZ


  5. mp3evans says:

    I would love to hear more to counter the very narrow discussion about the so-called unaffordability of the age pension…and the constant suggestion we raise the age of entitlement to 70yrs. I have been living in Australia for the past 38yrs and the same argument rages over there …. as I know it does in many other neo-liberal democracies at the moment. Here is an example of a counter-narrative: I would appreciate we find other voices in this debate in NZ …. people just swallow the established view hook, line and sinker for want of alternatives and the ageism that abounds on our culture ….where an individual only has value if they’re ‘productive’ and contributing to the economy in the extremely narrow sense of being in the paid work force. Its about time we recognised the unique strengths of our 60+ population and deployed it in ways that suited them and benefitted society…I’m talking about their vast LIFE EXPERIENCE and POSSIBLE WISDOM …society sorely needs this! We could devise ways to enable people to realise their wisdom ….foster the skills to know how to share it and pathways for it to be shared in the community. 60+yrs should be seen as the stage in life we give back to say thankyou for all we have received …this is one way we could do it!! Please contact me …I’m passionate about this subject which segues into intergenerational connections …I have researched for 12+yrs what is happening overseas on the topic of ‘wise eldering’. I’d love to talk to you about it! kindest regards Meg


  6. Gaenor says:

    Hello Judith
    Loved your reframing here of retirement ( such a deficit term!!) and really interested in how applied drama and applied theatre approaches can be used in generativity contexts.There are some wonderful examples of intergenerational verbatim projects in main cities in NZ but I am thinking of how I could make a contribution in New Plymouth. Would you be available for a Skype chat in the next few weeks?
    I live in New Plymouth but teach at Waikato uni in the week- almost at the end of Semester B now so I’m looking for something to give to the community over the summer.

    Best wishes

    Gaenor Stoate


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