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Wellington residents rock on into retirement

29 April 2005

Wellington residents rock on into retirement

Wellington plans to become a city where older people don’t necessarily retire, they simply look for the next challenge.

Wellington City Council’s Older Persons’ Policy, adopted this month, acknowledges that by the year 2021, 11.9 per cent of Wellington’s population will be made up of residents aged over 65. While some of the city’s older citizens will need extra help, many of them will be looking to change gear – find a new job, start studying, take up sport or take to the hills on one of the walkways.

The Council’s view is that because someone is over 65 it doesn’t mean they are frail. “Age is not necessarily a determinant of frailty or level of activity.” Instead, the city is likely to see an increase in masters sports and demand for other recreational activities for seniors.

But the policy also recognises that older people sometimes need support. This might include easier access to transport, housing and health support and safe living environments.

“The new policy acknowledges that older people are a significant and valued part of our community,” says Councillor Stephanie Cook, the Council’s Social Portfolio Spokesperson. “As well as the policy we will be taking on an extra staff member to implement the recommendations in the policy. So it's not just words – we'll be taking action as well.”

Community Services Manager Laurie Gabites says the policy will have an impact right across the Council’s field of operations. His first priority will be to start making changes at home base.

“The way we work – things like kerb cuts, safe environments – will also impact on older people. It’s a matter of bearing older people in mind as we do for other demographic groups. It’s adding that dimension to the work that we already do.”

The recent move by the Council to police the use of its mobility parks, for example, has a flow-on benefit for older people. “It makes it easier for those older people too who meet the disability criteria,” he says.

Mr Gabites says the Council can be influential even in areas where it has no direct responsibility. Even though it doesn’t set fares for public transport, it can push for greater accessibility to transport services.

“There are a lot of things that we don’t have actual responsibility for, but we can advocate on – health is another example,” he says.

Trends show that a greater number of older people will be better educated and may seek new jobs once they “retire” from their old ones. The Council should be prepared to lead the way in offering work to older job seekers.

Mr Gabites says the Older Persons’ Policy is part of the implementation of the council’s Social Strategy and closely connected to central government’s Positive Ageing Strategy. “There is a provision in the Draft Annual Plan for a position to implement the policy. That can’t occur until the next financial year.”

Wellington’s ageing population reflects the national trend. By 2021 18 percent of New Zealand’s population will be over 65. By mid-century it is estimated that older people will make up around 26 percent of all New Zealand residents.


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