In 20 years’ time, our country will be home to 1.25 million people aged over 65. Some councils are already planning ahead. Initiatives range from physical activity programmes, beach access mats and mobility parking to emergency preparedness and even a seniors’ rock ’n’ roll group. What’s your council doing?
The Office for Seniors is promoting the wellbeing of older people, and increasing awareness of the opportunities and challenges New Zealand faces with its ageing population. Councils are already providing a wide array of infrastructure and services that impact on ageing communities. With the long life cycle of infrastructure and often lengthy timeframes required for establishing new services, the Office of Seniors says it is important that the needs of older people are being planned for now.
Creating communities that are socially inclusive to older people is almost always good for everyone else. For example, affordable, reliable, safe and physically accessible transportation for those in wheelchairs works well for parents with young children, or anyone with limited mobility.
Some councils are already making good progress in this area and are developing policies, services and structures that are age-friendly and help older people remain active and included in their communities.
Hamilton City Council
In the Waikato, Hamilton City Council has developed a five-year strategy working collaboratively with stakeholders. These include Sport Waikato, local NGOs and the Waikato District Health Board.
Hamilton mayor Andrew King says his council’s vision is to ensure the best possible future for older Hamiltonians.
Sport Waikato CEO Matthew Cooper says as part of an age-friendly city it’s important to consider increasing and maintaining physical activity levels for seniors to maintain their quality of life.
“Sport Waikato helps to do this through delivering physical programmes for all ages through its Active & Well team.”
Tauranga City Council
Tauranga City Council is working on ensuring all members of its communities can enjoy the beach and the water. Two recent age-friendly projects have enabled members of the community who live with a disability the opportunity to access the beach and enjoy sea views.
The Karewa Parade viewing platform, which opened in December 2016, features a wheelchair-friendly picnic table and dedicated mobility parking. The platform gives users the ability to go and view the sea, and is the result of a collaboration between Tauranga City Council and the private sector.
A portable, roll-out beach access mat was trialled at Mount Maunganui Main Beach last summer. The mat creates a sturdy and visible access path for people who can’t get onto the beach or move across the sand (eg users of wheelchairs, walkers or mobility scooters).
Community development advisor Dani Jurgeleit, says council was able to buy the beach access mat due to the support of local businesses. “Tauranga City Council is the first council in New Zealand to provide this type of access to residents and visitors.”
Horowhenua District Council
The Horowhenua District Council has an established Older Persons Network. This comprises more than 30 community organisations who meet on a monthly basis. Members have gone on to set up the Horowhenua Age Friendly Communities Working Party.
This working party has identified emergency preparedness as a critical action area. The first initiative has been the bulk ordering and distribution of Life Tubes to seniors living in the region. Small sealable plastic containers that can be stored in a refrigerator, these Life Tubes contain important medical details in case of an emergency.
Other initiatives being developed include enduring power of attorney education, co-location of services at Jack Allan Community Hub, the Live Well Horowhenua Campaign and Haeremai Horowhenua – a group which will welcome and support newcomers, particularly retirees, when they first arrive in the region.
Kapiti Coast District Council
Between 2013 and 2028, the number of seniors living on the Kapiti Coast is predicted to increase by 35.7 percent.
Mayor K Gurunathan says this has propelled the council to start working on age-friendly assets and initiatives now.
“We have an established Older Persons Council (OPC) which has special privileges within council to ensure an older persons’ perspective is available at every opportunity,” he says.
“A good example is the Stride ’n’ Ride initiative which is about upgrading the footpath network to make it easier for pedestrians, cyclists and people on mobility scooters to move around our district.
“The council recently teamed up with the Kapiti Coast Chamber of Commerce and Electra to host four events targeted at empowering older Kapiti residents to take charge and re-create their future. The events – Life and Work after 50, The Next Frontier: Becoming an age-friendly employer of choice, A New Breed of Entrepreneurs, and The Challenge That Will Not Go Away – discuss the rise of senior entrepreneurs and challenge people to rethink the traditional concept of retirement.”
Wellington City Council
Councillor Brian Dawson says “through our various channels, libraries and iSites we provide senior citizens with services, facilities, and activities around the city to make daily life easier and more enjoyable.
“These include accessibility maps, mobility scooter hire, mobility parks and permits, rates rebates, backdoor rubbish collections, discounts on a leisure card and a CarFit education service.
“We organise Te Wiki Kaumatua Seniors – a week of community events and activities planned with older residents in mind.”
Community services manager, Jenny Rains says that following the “lonely” death of an older man in Housing New Zealand Dixon Street Flats, council identified a lack of neighbourly connection contributing to growing social isolation and loneliness especially in older tenants.
“We worked with local youth agency BGI and St John’s Church who are both located immediately opposite the flats to reactivate the community room in the flats.
“There is now a vibrant weekly community cafe for older tenants in the community room staffed with volunteers from BGI and St John’s Church. Tenants report they are now connecting with each other outside of the cafe and feel happier and safer living in the flats.”
The council is holding workshops to look at ways to prevent loneliness and social isolation in seniors.
It is also working with Charles Waldegrave (Family Centre), professor Chris Cunningham (Ngati Toa and Ngati Raukawa) and Taimalieutu Kiwi Tamasese on a research project to help older people facilitate social connections and enduring relationships.
Nelson City Council
Nelson councillor Gaile Noonan says older residents in Nelson want more than just to “keep busy” and are looking for meaningful ways to make a difference in their community.
“Every summer older volunteers help make up the hanging baskets that decorate our CBD and make our streets attractive to visitors. We also have a senior rock and roll group who perform at local events.
“Another successful age-friendly initiative we’ve implemented is our comprehensive network of off-road cycle / walkways that encourage older residents to get out and stay active.”
- For further information on age-friendly communities go to www.superseniors.msd.govt.nz
This article was first published in the November 2017 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.