24 April, 2013
New Plymouth Positive Ageing Forum
E aku rangatira, tēnā koutou katoa. Ka nui te honore ki te mihi ki a koutou.
Thank you for inviting me here today to be part of your Positive Ageing Forum.
I would like to start by acknowledging, Deputy Mayor Alex Matheson; Jeff Blyde, Chair of the New Plymouth Positive Ageing Trust; local MP Jonathan Young; and especially David Showler and John Major, who are such huge contributors to Positive Ageing in the Taranaki Region.
I’d also like to give special mention to John Cunningham, New Plymouth’s Positive Ageing Ambassador.
John has worked on older people’s issues as an Ambassador for my Office for Senior Citizens for 15 years. He was Chairman of the Positive Ageing Trust for many years and was highly influential in encouraging the New Plymouth District Council to focus on Positive Ageing and older peoples issues.
John has also helped other Councils around the country to develop Positive Ageing plans and has worked tirelessly for older people in the Taranaki region.
As Minister for Senior Citizens, I am committed to encouraging a culture in our country where we appreciate and value the contributions of older people.
As I, and others, will tell you – there are more people in the older age groups now than there were, and there will be more still in the future. So let’s be clear. Is that because older people are hanging around in misery in their older years just to prove they can? Of course not. There wouldn’t be a lot of joy in that. New Zealanders are living longer, healthier lives in greater numbers. That is a fact. But how do I hear this described?
“Nothing is being done to prepare for the silver tsunami.” Well feeling part of a tsunami isn’t very joyful either.
“A landslide of older people will require care and no-one is preparing or planning for it.” I’m not into landslides either.
“By 2051, 1.3 million New Zealanders will be over 65, a huge fiscal cost to those of us still working, a huge drain on New Zealand.” Well I have two things to say to that.
Firstly, to describe those 1.3 million people as nothing more than a drain and a huge fiscal challenge is demeaning and leaves a large part of the equation out. And secondly, I will – God willing – eventually be one of those over 65s myself, and I don’t want those years to be ones of guilt that I am part of a drain, a landslide or a tsunami.
As Minister for Senior Citizens I am committed to encouraging a culture where we appreciate and value older people. Older people have valuable knowledge, skills and experience. They make important contributions as family members, volunteers and as active participants in the workforce. I am firmly focused on fostering positive attitudes to older people, and ensuring they have opportunities to contribute and be involved.
New Plymouth has a special place in promoting Positive Ageing. The New Plymouth District Council, supported by the Positive Ageing Trust, was the first local council to understand how important the concept of Positive Ageing was to local government when developing their plans.
In fact, the Office for Senior Citizens uses the New Plymouth District Council as an excellent example of a partnership model between central and local government to lead the way to plan for Positive Ageing in New Zealand. New Plymouth’s commitment to Positive Ageing has continued leading the way making a difference to older people in the New Plymouth region.
Back in 2003 the Positive Ageing Trust, the New Plymouth District Council and Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki surveyed the living experience of the over 65s and over 80s in the district. Key findings of the survey were that older people in Taranaki remain in their homes for longer than the national average, and that they are ageing ‘comfortably and safely’.
The average age of a person going into residential care was 88, and at the time of the survey, 823 people in the district were in a residential care home. Eighty per cent of older people who remained in their homes had regular contact with family or neighbours and loneliness was only cited as an issue for three per cent of respondents. I would be interested to see how older people are doing ten years on.
The Government is committed to healthier, active older New Zealanders who are well supported in living independent and fulfilling lives. We have initiatives aimed at supporting older people to stay well and developing more flexible and integrated approaches for people with complex long-term conditions.
One area we are focused on now is looking at how we can reduce harm from falls. There are approximately 4,000 new hip fractures in New Zealand each year, representing a significant cost for individuals and their families, as well as to the health system.
The Health, Quality and Safety Commission is leading work to reduce harm from falls in hospitals. The Commission is developing a three-year falls programme as part of a broader patient safety campaign.
This programme has been taken up by the Taranaki District Health Board, who have established a Falls Prevention Steering Group to oversee a programme of measures to help reduce falls in hospitals. One great, but simple, initiative currently being trialled by the Board is worth a mention. Patients are being issued with non-slip socks while in hospital to help prevent falls - sometimes it is the simple things that make the difference.
There is good evidence that people who continue to live in their own home – with personal care and support with housework if necessary – experience greater wellbeing.
Over the last financial year the Government provided 14.4 million hours of home and community support for disabled and older New Zealanders. This is up 2.5 million hours from four years ago. These support hours are used to help with every day activities such as showering and dressing, and meal preparation – the kind of things most of us do without thinking.
Ensuring older people get the help they need at home is not only good for them – it helps reduce avoidable visits to emergency departments, hospital readmissions and early placement in long-term care.
Government’s policy is to strengthen services in the community so that flexible services can be delivered close to where people live. For example, the Taranaki District Health Board has introduced Project Splice, which is aimed at helping older people to stay living in the community.
Project Splice is about the integration of multiple health services to ensure better care. It aims to meet the needs of older people in a holistic way as well as providing more frequent reassessments to address their changing needs.
In addition, the Board has introduced a single point of entry for all community health referrals for older people. Referrals are screened and then reviewed at a daily multi-disciplinary team meeting A new care management function has also been established. It connects all clients with complex needs with a designated Care Manager who is linked to the client's GP practice. This on-going communication ensures a joined up approach across health professionals.
One of my key priorities is the prevention of elder abuse. Older people are entitled to feel safe and live free of fear. They have a right to dignity and care in a supportive environment.
Elder abuse happens in many ways and is often well hidden within families and communities. It relies on an imbalance of power, where the older person feels they have no choices and are too afraid to complain.
Elder abuse can be psychological, physical, financial or sexual. It can also be the result of inaction, leading to neglect and isolation. Sometimes there are no obvious signs of abuse, especially in the case of financial abuse.
The statistics make quite frightening reading. Data gathered by Age Concern shows that 79 per cent of abuse is carried out by family members - sons and daughters, husbands and wives, grandchildren.
Two out of every five abused older people say they have lost confidence and self-esteem as a result of the abuse. They are frightened, anxious and distressed. About a quarter experience long-term consequences. Half suffer significant health effects from the abuse they have experienced.
The first task is to raise awareness of the issue of elder abuse and neglect. We need to help people recognise it and let them know what they can do if they encounter it - or importantly if they experience elder abuse. The Government supports and promotes the awareness activities of Age Concern, its local councils and elder abuse and neglect prevention services which are available around the country.
We fund 24 Elder Abuse and Neglect Prevention Services to provide education to the aged care sector, other professionals with an interest in older people, and informal carers.
This education work helps people to identify abusive and neglectful behaviour, to understand contributing factors for this behaviour to be better able to prevent it, and to develop appropriate ways to respond to elder abuse and neglect.
In the Taranaki region, Elder Abuse and Neglect Prevention Services are provided by Te Hauora Pou Heretanga. Their education and training service is also available to rest homes and other agencies involved in the care of older people.
Te Hauora Pou Heretanga is supported by the Elder Abuse and Neglect Prevention Advisory Panel made up of representatives from Child, Youth and Family, the Taranaki District Health Board, Taranaki Women’s Refuge, the Ministry of Social Development Seniors team and the Police. It is encouraging to see these agencies working together to confront the issue of elder abuse and neglect.
Enduring power of attorney
Another piece of work that is connected to preventing elder abuse and neglect is the review of the 2007 amendments to the enduring powers of attorney provisions in the Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act.
The amendments were created to increase protections for those unable to manage their personal and property affairs. They included strengthening witnessing requirements for those setting up an enduring power of attorney and ensuring that those acting on behalf of someone else are not able to benefit themselves or anyone other than the person they are acting for.
We are seeking feedback as part of a review of the amendments. The public consultation will run from 1 March to 30 June 2013. There will be a consultation here in New Plymouth on 29 April 2013. A special thanks to John Cunningham for helping my Office for Senior Citizens to arrange this meeting.
I urge you to have your say if this is something you are concerned with. The Ministry of Social Developments website has an online questionnaire that will inform the review. This questionnaire is easily accessed on the Ministry of Social Development’s website. If you have any difficulties in accessing the questionnaire, please contact my Office for Senior Citizens or John Cunningham.
I am passionate about keeping older people connected. Napier Connects is a project I initiated in June last year after meeting with community groups in Napier to discuss the problem of social isolation among older people.
It is an umbrella for community-led activities and projects that aim to encourage older people to become more engaged with their community, while addressing the social isolation that some of them experience. I am thrilled at the way the Napier community has embraced this project.
In December I attended a world café forum with community leaders and service providers and was impressed with their enthusiasm and commitment to working together.
Initiatives currently underway include a pilot programme with the Eastern Institute of Technology with older people mentoring and supporting students; the establishment of a walking group for older residents of Napier City Council rental accommodation; and garden clean-ups for older people who need some extra help, organised by the Youth Council and Age Concern. These may seem just simple initiatives but they are contributing to the health, independence and connectedness of older people in Napier.
The experiences and effects of Napier Connects will be evaluated by the end of June 2013. I hope we will be able to identify key learnings that can provide a framework that can be adapted by other communities.
Community and Voluntary Sector
As the Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, and a passionate former volunteer myself, I want to acknowledge the people here today who work for community organisations, either as paid staff or as volunteers.
Volunteers are the backbone of New Zealand society. There are more than 1.2 million volunteers contributing around 270 million volunteer hours a year. They make up 67 per cent of the non-profit workforce, which contributes 2.6 per cent to New Zealand’s GDP.
Volunteers work in very diverse fields spanning social services, health, education and community development, to conservation, animal welfare, sports, recreation and the arts. The Government recognises that volunteers provide essential services in local communities. They strengthen communities by building networks of trust and shared values.
We all know how many older people provide invaluable input to their communities, by helping families and individuals with skills such as cooking, budgeting, parenting and general home management. This enriches the lives of others by sharing their experiences where it is needed the most.
Conversely, older people benefit tremendously from the support of volunteers. One example is Age Concern’s accredited visiting service staffed by volunteers who bring much needed companionship and joy to older people who could otherwise be isolated and alone. There is an Age Concern based in New Plymouth that is working very well.
The SuperGold Card scheme has experienced tremendous growth since it was introduced in October 2008. There are now over 4,300 participating businesses, representing more than 8,700 outlets nationwide, offering discounts to older New Zealanders.
Here in New Plymouth there are around 200 businesses outlets that offer a SuperGold Card discount. A staggering 41 million free trips have been taken by our cardholders since the scheme was introduced in October 2008. In one year, 2011 – 2012, almost 45,000 concession trips were taken by New Plymouth cardholders. And if you are using your car, SuperGold cardholders can park for free in all Council carparks before 11.00am, Monday to Saturday.
We are always working to extend the benefits of the card and last October the Ministry of Social Development contacted businesses in the health sector to encourage them to join the SuperGold Card programme. As a result, more than 500 new businesses signed up, including dentists, pharmacies and physiotherapists – all areas of potential cost for older people.
Over 40 per cent of the new businesses came from outside of the main city centres, a great result in our push to extend the benefits of the card into smaller towns around New Zealand.
Older New Zealanders are more active and healthier than ever before. As a Government, we want to create an environment where older people can live life as independent, connected and respected members of our communities.
In shaping the future for our older people, we are very clear about what we want to achieve. It’s the life that we want for our parents and grandparents, as well as ourselves and our children for years to come.
Thank you for the work you do to make New Plymouth such a vibrant community and for leading the way in showing New Zealanders how important it is to have a positive approach to older age.
No reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.