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The Potential of an Ageing Population

Hon Lianne Dalziel
21 November 2000 Speech Notes

The Potential of an Ageing Population

Thank you for the invitation to be part of this launch today.

I want to begin by acknowledging the New Zealand Christian Council of Social Services for making a commitment to gathering together this information, so that we may better understand how to deliver policies to support the 'Ageing in Place' philosophy.

I also want to commend Bonnie Robinson for the work that has gone into these reports, one, because they are in such an accessible format, and, two, because they reinforce the objectives of this Government's Positive Ageing Strategy.

When I first became Minister for Senior Citizens, I spent the first few months of my job telling officials that I didn't want them providing advice on why we needed a Positive Ageing Strategy in terms of the ageing population. It seemed a very negative way to promote positive ageing by saying that we had the looming burden of the ageing baby boomers as they hit retirement.

At the launch of the New Zealand Institute for Research on Ageing, Professor Ng gave me the words I was looking for. He said:

"New Zealanders who are now 65 plus are more highly educated and healthier than their predecessors. Their capacity for productive work of all kinds (not necessarily for pay) is a national treasure and this is set to rise with longer life expectancies attainable by more and more New Zealanders.
In about 30 years from now, over 20% of our population will be made up of this group of Third Agers. Their contribution to New Zealand society is and will continue to be immense. If they are ignored, undervalued, or otherwise excluded from society, New Zealand can hardly be competitive against other countries that have found a way of harnessing this immense resource."

As Professor Ng and George Salmond concluded in their book Ages Ahead: Promoting inter-generational relationships: "The ageing world is no apocalypse. If economies go bankrupt, the fault is less likely due to longer lives or an increasing number of older persons and more to the failure of using age as a resource."

Since then, my response has been to those who regard the ageing population as a burden, it is actually a resource and it will be us, who lose out, if its potential is ignored.

This kind of research material brings us closer to finding a way that we as a community can realise and utilise, the potential we have in our ageing population, and, as I said before, it fits very well with the Positive Ageing Strategy.

Prior to the election, I was Labour's spokesperson on Youth Affairs. But since becoming the Minister for Senior Citizens, it didn't take me long to realise that the underlying issues in each portfolio are exactly the same. 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, and many of the solutions we are seeking lie in connecting the generations together.

The valuable information in these publications which I am pleased to help launch today will assist in this, particularly with respect to the implementation of the Ageing in Place philosophy, which I might suggest has had a lot of lip service paid to it over the years, but little else. I adopt the most telling phrase from the report:

Ageing in Place is a process, not a product.

This process will be greatly aided by these publications and I again congratulate the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services and especially Bonnie Robinson for the work that has gone into them.

ENDS

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