Kia noho ora tonu ngā kaumātua.
Older people deserve to lead valued, connected and fulfilling lives
Older people are enormously valuable to our communities. Their lifetime contributions underpin what we enjoy today, and they share skills and experience in numerous ways. Their contribution to the economy is often unrecognised, but includes paid and volunteer work, committee and trust memberships and sharing knowledge as mentors and advisors. Older people play a huge role in supporting whānau (sometimes even their own parents), neighbours and communities.
Our growing population of older people increasingly live healthier lives. This presents an opportunity, as well as a challenge, for countries globally. If older people are supported to age well, they can continue to participate in, and contribute to, their communities.
As part of my role as Aged Care Commissioner, I’ve participated in a number of hui with older people, their whānau and support networks to help capture their lived experiences of health and disability care. Capturing the voices of older people positions them as partners in their care, and not just users of services.
It’s been an absolute privilege to talk to diverse groups of older people across Aotearoa New Zealand and I’ve been consistently humbled at the wealth of life experiences they have shared. However, our hui also reflect some significant gaps and issues in the provision of health and disability care for them. This includes people being taken off waiting lists due to age, and services failing to adequately consider quality of life (in addition to quality of care). Choices for aged residential care are also increasingly limited or dependent on an older person’s financial position. These, and other issues, need to be addressed so we can provide innovative models of care that support our older people to age well in the future.
Positive ageing is underpinned by health and independence. To age well, older people need integrated, person-centred health and disability care that supports their diverse and evolving needs as they age. This includes options to prevent or slow physical or mental decline.
Our older people are important members of our society. They deserve to be valued and supported so that they can continue to lead fulfilling and dignified lives in their communities.