The Office for Seniors  is in the midst of a nationwide consultation process – which runs until 24 August 2018 – in preparation for developing a new strategy for the ageing population and action plan, so New Zealand can respond effectively to these demographic changes.

Director of the Office for Seniors, Diane Turner, told delegates at the 2018 Selwyn Centres Annual Conference that dramatic demographic changes in the senior community required the country to take a fresh look at the issues, and questions, that matter for older people.

The ‘Community Connections’-themed conference at Auckland’s Selwyn Village on 25 July brought together coordinators, volunteers and parish committee members of The Selwyn Foundation’s network of 40 community drop-in centres for older people (‘Selwyn Centres’) which are located across Greater Auckland, Northland, the Waikato and in Christchurch.

“The need for a new ageing strategy stems largely from significant population trends as well as changes in attitude about growing older,” said Turner. “Currently, there are 723,000 people aged 65 and over – that represents 15% of New Zealanders. Estimates are that, by 2038, 1.3 million people will be over 65 – almost a quarter of the population.

“This future cohort will generally be healthier than their 2018 counterparts. They’ll live longer and will have quite different expectations, and perspectives, on the ageing process. Many will be working past the ‘traditional’ retirement age and will want to play a more active role in planning for their future.

The Office for Seniors is also promoting the creation of Age-friendly communities, based on a World Health Organisation concept founded on a number of principles that cover: people’s respect for themselves and their community; access to appropriate resources including technology; more of a multi-generational community make-up; and opportunities for participation and engagement in all aspects of life.

“Regardless of age, people want to be safe and to feel supported. They want a place to call home and have the ways and means to be able to connect with their communities of choice,” said Turner.

The Selwyn Foundation’s Chief Executive Officer Garry Smith says that, from their beginnings in 2000, the Selwyn Centres have provided opportunities for older people to connect with a caring and supporting group within their local community. They Centres are a community-based partnership initiative between charitable trust, The Selwyn Foundation, and local Anglican parishes.

“People need this sense of belonging throughout life, but particularly as they get older,” said Smith, “Remaining socially connected also has a positive effect on general health and can bring psychological benefits, such as delaying the onset of dementia.

“As an organisation, we’re fully behind the work of the Office for Seniors in developing a new strategy for an ageing population and designing meaningful policy to address the key issues affecting older people. We look forward to being part of this discussion and to sharing our insights and experiences – especially on the importance of spirituality as part of the ‘whole person’ approach to wellbeing – so that life can be made better for the nation’s senior citizens, now and in the future.”

Pictured: (from left to right) Director of the Office for Seniors, Diane Turner, with Selwyn’s Community Programmes Manager, Heather Whineray, and Henderson Selwyn Centre coordinator Audrey Jones.

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