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Association of Gerontology - Lianne Dalziel Speech

Hon Lianne Dalziel
Minister for Senior Citizens

New Zealand Association of Gerontology
Annual General Meeting

17 Constable Street, Newtown

Wednesday 16 August 2000
18:00 hours

Thank you for your invitation to speak this evening at your annual general meeting.

I know your association has played a significant role in highlighting the current health issues for older people to health professionals and policy makers, and that you place a strong emphasis on the importance of research.

It's also pleasing to note that you have an indirect connection to the Senior Citizens Unit with Natalie Lavery and Margaret Earle both members of this organisation.

BACKGROUND

Prior to the election, I was Labour’s spokesperson on Youth Affairs. People did think that it was ironic that the Youth Spokesperson became the Senior Citizens Minister. However, in my experience the issues are not entirely different.

When young people do not have a sense of belonging and participation, they can become alienated and troubled. Older people can become isolated and afraid.

So, building or maintaining the ability to participate, and nurturing that sense of belonging, are vital at either end of life’s spectrum, which is why I am a strong supporter of the positive aging approach.

POSITIVE AGEING STRATEGY

In the letter of invitation for me to attend this evening, Dr Margaret Guthrie asked if I would focus this address on the Positive Ageing Strategy we are currently in the process of developing and how that strategy fits in with other work such as the Health Strategy for Older People and the Closing the Gaps initiatives.

In the eight months of being the Minister for Senior Citizens, I have brought a new focus to the role, and that is to develop a Positive Ageing Strategy for New Zealanders focussing on well being and participation in society.

Society needs to realise that just because people have retired from work, that it does not mean they have retired from life. 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.

I can say that this week, Cabinet approved the process and timeframe for the development of the Positive Ageing Strategy.

The proposed objective is to improve opportunities for older people to participate in the community in the ways that they choose. The Strategy will provide a framework within which all policy with implications for older people can be understood and developed.

It will not be my role 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 … the list goes on. Running across the strategy are the perspectives of Maori and Pacific peoples, gender, rurality and ethnicity. It is a different approach that places the older person at the centre of the picture.

The proposal for the New Zealand Positive Ageing Strategy is first to develop a set of strategic positive ageing objectives. The draft objectives are to:
 Empower older people to make choices that enable them to live a satisfying life and lead a healthy lifestyle;
 Provide opportunities for older people to participate in and contribute to family, whanau and community;
 Reflect positive attitudes to older people;
 Recognise the diversity of older people and ageing as a normal part of the lifecycle;
 Affirm the values and strengthen the capabilities of older Maori and their whanau;
 Recognise the diversity and strengthen the capabilities of older Pacific peoples;
 Appreciate the diversity of cultural identity of older people living in New Zealand;
 Recognise the different issues facing men and women;
 Ensure older people, in both rural and urban areas, live with confidence in a secure environment and receive the services they need to do so; and
 Enable older people to take responsibility for their personal growth and development through changing circumstances.

Government departments will then undertake a review of existing policies, programmes and services relevant to older people to ensure these align with the agreed strategic objectives. I would expect them to develop an action plan to address issues or gaps identified when reviewing existing policies.

They will also be asked to consider the long-term relevance of policies in terms of changes to the social environment, including the growing number of older people and the needs of future generations of older people.

This will result in the development of an inter-sectoral positive ageing work programme, and I will present this to Cabinet for approval.

Finally, we will develop monitoring and reporting mechanisms to ensure continued assessment of policies, programmes and services in terms of the agreed strategic objectives for positive ageing.

CONSULTATION PROGRAMME

The Senior Citizens Unit has planned a public consultation programme as part of the process for developing the Positive Ageing Strategy.

Consultations will, in most instances, be community workshops run by the Volunteer Community Co-ordinators, who worked with the Senior Citizens Unit during the International Year of Older Persons 1999.

All of the co-ordinators have agreed to run at least one consultation workshop in their region. Several have planned additional workshops, and one co-ordinator has arranged five separate workshops. Most of the consultation workshops will take place in the week of 14-18 August 2000.

In addition, specific workshops are being held with Pacific peoples in Christchurch, Wellington, West Auckland, and South Auckland.

The purpose of the consultations will be two-fold. First, to discuss the proposed strategic positive ageing objectives and, secondly, for participants to identify their priorities for Government action to promote positive ageing.

The feedback from the workshops will be used in the development of the action plan for government agencies.

HEALTH STRATEGY FOR OLDER PEOPLE

The Ministry of Health has established a separate policy group on health of older people. This policy group is based in the Ministry’s Personal and Family Health Directorate.

The National Health Committee presented a report to Government in May this year, which made three major recommendations regarding health care of older people. These recommendations were that:

 the Ministry of Health should develop strategic policy and planning by the end of 2000 to meet the health needs of older people and that the funding of older people's health should be separated from the Disability Support Services budget,
 the delivery of the most appropriate, efficient and effective health care services for older people should be organised in ways that will achieve an integrated and coherent continuum of care, and
 future funding arrangements for health and disability support services for older people should encourage integration between primary, secondary, DSS and public health services. Appropriate priority should also be given to funding and implementing services to support “ageing in place”.

In response to this report, the new policy group in the Ministry of Health will be developing a strategic policy on health of older people.

This policy work will be done as part of the second phase of the New Zealand Health Strategy.

The strategic policy on health of older people, and other policy work undertaken by the Ministry of Health that is relevant to older people, for instance waiting times for surgery or standards for home support services, will feed into the New Zealand Positive Ageing Strategy.

CLOSING THE GAPS

The Government’s commitment to closing the economic and social gaps for Maori and for Pacific peoples has been given high priority.

Government’s commitment to closing the gaps for Maori is based on its responsibilities as a partner to the Treaty of Waitangi. In terms of Pacific communities, we have also given priority to closing the gaps because of the level of disparities that exist between Pacific people and other New Zealanders.

The Prime Minister has established, and also chairs, a Cabinet committee to oversee the work in this area. Another strong advocate is the new Minister of Maori Affairs, Hon Parekura Horomia.

The Positive Ageing Strategy will be developed in co-ordination with the closing the gaps work.

I am all too well aware that the biggest gap we need to consider in the context of the Positive Ageing Strategy is the gap between the average lifespan of Maori and Pacific peoples and other New Zealanders. Closing the Gaps must mean Maori and Pacific peoples living longer.

CONCLUSION

So, in conclusion, I would like to say that I look forward to continuing the work on a Positive Ageing Strategy, and to report back to you in the future any developments that occur.

Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today, and I'll be happy to take your questions.

ENDS

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