The celebration at the Papatoetoe Bowling Club brought together four cultural groups from Pacific Homecare’s Fia Ola program, an ethnic-specific drop-in centre for over 65s, aimed to reduce social isolation.

In true Pacific Island fashion, the day began with a prayer, followed by music, with many frail clients taking to the floor to dance. The colours presented by the matching red and black puletasis of the Samoan group, blue puletahas of the Tongan group, coloured clothing of the Fijian group and bright green muumuus with the ukuleles and eis of the Cook Island group painted the vibrant Pacific Island spirit. Coordinator Taua’aletoa Malaetele then led the group in some exercises, before lunch accompanied by many talanoa sessions (discussions).

Malaetele has always been passionate about keeping a social forum for older people through Fia Ola.

“This is a good way to remember the elderly in our community and celebrate life,” says Malaetele.

International Day of Older Persons was first introduced by the United Nations in 1990 to raise awareness about issues affecting the elderly, and acknowledge their contribution to society.

The theme for this year’s International Older Persons Day was ‘Stepping into the Future: Tapping the Talents, Contributions and Participation of Older Persons in Society’.

Seniors Minister Maggie Barry welcomed the day being marked around the world today, drawing attention to three UN Age Friendly Community initiatives around New Zealand that the Government has piloted to promote positive aging and social inclusion.

“We also have a group of SuperSenior Champions – articulate older Kiwis led by Patron Sir Peter Snell – who raise awareness on how important older people are in our lives and talk about issues that affect Seniors, including elder abuse.”

Barry says over 2000 cases of elder abuse are reported each year but the majority goes unreported.

“It’s believed up to 10 per cent of seniors experience some form of abuse and three quarters is carried out by family members,” she says.

“Earlier this year I launched new re-prioritised Elder Abuse Response Services. EARS is designed for real action on elder abuse, getting older people the help they need, quickly, effectively and safely.”

Barry says there has been a “steady stream of calls” to the new free and confidential 24/7 help-line, 0800 32 668 65 (0800 EA NOT OK) since July 1. All calls are answered by a registered nurse who refers people to expert help, including for financial abuse.

“We are also in discussions with the Commission for Financial Capability about running a series of seminars to help Seniors with money matters.

“Tackling elder abuse and ageism will help create an environment where the rights of older people are recognised and supported so Seniors can age positively in their own communities.”

“International Day of Older Persons gives visibility and recognition to the many seniors who are living meaningful and vital lives, contributing as workers, employers, volunteers, parents and grandparents,” Barry says.

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