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International Year of Older Persons - Speech

Hon Lianne Dalziel
Minister for Senior Citizens

Breakfast launch of report and research into
International Year of Older Persons

Banquet Hall, Beehive first floor

Thursday 29 June 2000
08:15 hours

I want to begin by thanking all of those who have made today possible. I acknowledge all of the members of the Senior Citizens Unit team for their unstinting efforts, and I acknowledge Alison Gray, one of the researchers who is here today.

It is my special pleasure to thank the Prime Minister for launching these important reports, which mark New Zealand's contribution to the UN International Year of Older Persons. I regard my own appointment as Minister for Senior Citizens, after having been the Labour spokesperson on Youth Affairs, as reflective of the year's motto "Towards a Society for All Ages".

The point that I have made to a number of groups is that the two portfolios, actually, are not so different. Underpinning both is the need to recognise that those who do not feel that sense of belonging and participation, no matter what their age, often are left feeling alienated, isolated and afraid.

Building that sense of belonging and improving opportunities for participation at both ends of life's spectrum is the answer.

Which in essence is what the Report into last year and the research tells us.

The key is attitudinal change. Society needs to recognise the value of older New Zealanders, and older New Zealanders need to value their own capacity to contribute to the next generation.

Society needs to realise that just because people have retired from work, that that does not mean they have retired from life. As I have said, it is that ability to participate in our communities, that sense of belonging, that makes us part of our communities.

The links between lifestyle in our younger years and health in older age are also well documented. Positive attitudes about ourselves as we grow older are also vital. Good social, emotional and mental health are critical ingredients to positive ageing.

Which leads me onto the final point I want to make. I have brought a new focus to the role of Minister for Senior Citizens. In my view the previous administration placed too much emphasis on ill health and disability. My role is to develop a Positive Ageing Strategy for New Zealanders, focussing on well being and ability, inter-generational activities and participation.

My portfolio, of course, is an advocacy portfolio; it is my role to be your voice at the Cabinet table. So, it will not be my job to deliver on the strategy, per se, but rather to promote an inter-sectoral approach to the range of issues that affect older New Zealander's ability to participate.

That range of issues stretches from Superannuation, through Housing, Health, Disability Support, Adult Education, Transport, Community Involvement, Security, Residential Care, Carer Support, Home Help and rural issues… the list goes on. It is a different approach that places the older person at the centre of the picture, and ensures that the range of services and the support mechanisms are appropriate to encourage continued participation in the community and independence.

The Ministry is working on draft objectives for the Positive Ageing Strategy, and I expect the first reports to go to Cabinet in about September.
The development of the work plan will be the next step, which will align all Government departments with positive ageing objectives, and act as a framework by which the strategy can be implemented.

This approach gives life to these two reports. Coupled to this we had the Budget decision to develop a small grants fund, to build on last year, which really makes today's release timely indeed.

Thank you all for coming, and participating in this breakfast launch. Thank you especially to all the Volunteer Community Co-ordinators for the work you did. You can take tremendous pride in today's launch.

Thank you also for those who participated in the research project; your insights have been invaluable.

These reports are truly a celebration of older New Zealanders. I hope that you see that today is not just the completion of the IYOP, but also the beginning of the next step towards a Positive Ageing strategy for New Zealand.

Thank you again, Prime Minister. Having travelled around New Zealand, I know you have enormous credibility with, and support from, older New Zealanders. We are very proud and grateful that you launched these reports today.


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