Launch of the Positive Ageing Status Report

  • Lianne Dalziel
Senior Citizens

Welcome and thank you for attending today's launch of the first Positive Ageing Status report.

I extend a warm welcome to my colleague Ruth Dyson, and I wish to welcome in particular Neil Martin and his team, and Natalie Lavery and her team; and to publicly acknowledge what has in fact been a significant achievement. Afterall the Positive Ageing Strategy itself was only launched just under six months ago.

I also want to acknowledge members of the Advisory Council, and major organisations representing older people, such as Age Concern and Greypower, community organisations such as the NZ Council of Social Services, policy analysts, government agencies, and volunteer community co-ordinators.

Today is a significant date for two reasons. First, today is the day we celebrate International Day of Older Persons. Second, today is also the first day of the Ministry of Social Development, and the status report is its first publication.

The status report is part of the Positive Ageing Strategy, which sets out Government's commitment to positive ageing and reaffirms the value of older people in society. The Strategy was launched on 10 April 2001 and established ten goals for integrating policies and programmes across the government sector to improve opportunities for older people to participate in the community in the ways that they choose. A cross-portfolio Action Plan for the period 1 July 2001 to 30 June 2002 was launched along with the Strategy.

The status report is an essential part of Government's commitment to monitoring and reporting on positive ageing in New Zealand, and will be published every three years.

The Ministry of Social Development, including the Senior Citizens Unit, has worked with a range of community and government service providers and other expert advisers to produce this report.

It provides a comprehensive description of the situation of older people in New Zealand today. It discusses current policies and programmes encouraging people to age positively and identifies issues requiring government action as part of the Positive Ageing Strategy. I guess you could describe it as a baseline document against which progress towards the Positive Ageing Goals can be measured.

The status report's sub-title, Diversity, Participation and Change, reflects the following themes that are recognised throughout the report:

- the diversity of older people
- the continued participation of older people in all aspects of society
- the opportunities provided by the changing population in New Zealand.

These are very important themes. Prior to the last election, I was the Opposition spokesperson on Youth Affairs, however, after becoming the Minister for Senior Citizens, I found that the issues were the same. They revolved around two words - participation and belonging. This was the driver of the Positive Ageing Strategy and the other component is the language. The opportunities provided by an older population should be appreciated from that perspective. If it is approached from the angle of the "burgeoning burden of the ageing population" then a lot of the potential for volunteers, mentors, carers, role models and supporters that exists in this population will not be realised. Using positive language makes an enormous difference in this regard.

The report presents the demographic and economic context for discussing specific policy issues, but its main purpose is to provide specific information on the 'status' of older people in New Zealand, using the ten positive ageing goals as subject headings.

A number of emerging issues, identified throughout the status report, help identify issues requiring government action as part of an ongoing Positive Ageing Strategy. The report also outlines current and planned government action towards the positive ageing goals, providing a baseline I spoke of before.

Use of the Living Standards survey

Three months ago Steve Maharey and I launched the Living Standards of Older New Zealanders. Although it told us that the majority were doing okay, it told us for the first time what factors contributed to those who were not doing well - divorce/separation; death of a spouse; significant period of illness; major hospital operation; low paid jobs; intermittent work; redundancy; lack of additional income over superannuation; rental accommodation rather than home ownership. The risk of poor living standards in retirement increases with the number of factors present.

This says we have enormous challenges for a generation which didn't experience a job for life, one spouse, one house and the "save first, buy later" ethic. So this document represents a real challenge to the policy makers of today, to get it right for tomorrow. I've described my generation as the 'instant gratification' generation, who buy first, pay later, and this document says we are going to be paying in more ways than we care to contemplate.

There is of course, only so much central Government can do - we cannot legislate to change attitudes. We need partnerships between central and local government and the community to provide the environment for attitudinal change, and to develop community actions that are relevant to each community.

I always seem to be drawn to my own city of Christchurch as a role model in this regard. They have set about making Christchurch a community for all ages. They have a child advocate, a youth advocate and through the Canterbury Development Corporation, a third age co-ordinator. The Christchurch City Council has provided true leadership in this regard, and proved the value of retaining ownership (and in fact, increasing) its housing stock, including elderly persons housing developments and other assets.

This coalition government wishes to work in partnership with local government and community, and today's launch reinforces this government's commitment to deliver on our policies in a measurable way.

I again congratulate everyone who has made this project happen. I believe this Status Report is a very worthy report to be the first published by the Ministry for Social Development, and today's launch is a very positive way to celebrate Inter Day of Older Persons.