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Reports show value of older New Zealanders

29 June 2000 Media Statement

Reports show value of older New Zealanders

The Prime Minister, Helen Clark, and the Minister for Senior Citizens, Lianne Dalziel, today launched two reports into New Zealand's contribution to the United Nations International Year of Older Persons 1999. The launch was made in front of 200 invited guests representing senior citizens organisations and community groups from around the country.

"The research carried out during the year, as well as the events that were held, truly demonstrated the value of our older New Zealanders to New Zealand society," Lianne Dalziel said.

"It is not only a recognition of the contribution older New Zealanders have made, it is an acknowledgement of the contribution they continue to make."

"Countless people took part in numerous events and their energy and enthusiasm helped make International Year of Older Persons a success, and also helped break down barriers and stereotypes about older people and ageing."

The theme for the year was "Towards a society for all ages". The first of the two publications  International Year of Older Persons 1999, Final Report  gives details of events held during the year. The second  Factors Affecting the Ability of Older People to Live Independently  is detailed research that will play an important part in the development of policies for older people, now and in the future.

"These reports focus on the huge contribution that our older New Zealanders make to our society and the extent to which the experience and knowledge of our older New Zealanders should be used to benefit our communities."

Key findings of the research are that:

 The most important influence on independence in older age is what individuals do and what happens to them before they grow older;
 Financial resources, an active mind, good relationships with family and friends, fitness and health and good self-esteem are all associated with the ability to continue living independently;
 The importance of the role of neighbours, friends and family in assisting people to live independently.

Lianne Dalziel said that the Budget contained a small grants fund of $113,000 to build on the work that was done last year through the Volunteer Community Co-ordinators.

She said the reports clearly pointed out the need for a Positive Ageing Strategy. "In my view, the previous Government placed too much emphasis on ill health and disability. The Positive Ageing Strategy we are developing puts the older person at the centre of the picture, and ensures that the range of services and support mechanisms are appropriate to encourage independence and continued participation in the community."

"It's a focus on total well-being and involvement," she said.

The report makes a number of suggestions for change relating to improving attitudes to ageing, reducing financial insecurity, improving access to health services, housing, affordable transport and increasing opportunities for recreation and education.

Lianne Dalziel said the reports provide options for initiatives for older Maori, such as marae-based health clinics and educational programmes. "This is important in terms of closing the gaps. Maori in this study emphasised the need for community involvement of older Maori, while acknowledging that community demands on older people can be tiring."

"These reports are truly a celebration of older New Zealanders. I hope that older New Zealanders see today not just as the completion of the International Year of Older Persons, but also the beginning of the next step towards a Positive Ageing strategy for New Zealand," Lianne Dalziel said.

ENDS

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