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Launch Of NZ Positive Ageing Strategy

Hon Lianne Dalziel Speech Notes

Launch Of NZ Positive Ageing Strategy
Law School, Old Government Buildings, Wellington, 9am, 10 April 2001

"Ageing with attitude"

Good morning and welcome. It is my great pleasure to be here with you all at this launch of the New Zealand Positive Ageing Strategy.

As I look around the room, I can see a whole range of people who have contributed to the development of the Strategy. Thank you for taking the time to come and celebrate this important occasion. Your attendance fills me with great confidence that the Strategy is in safe hands as we move into the future.

In particular I want to thank:
„X the Advisory Council for Senior Citizens, who drafted the positive ageing principles on which the Strategy is based;
„X the Reference Group, who helped the Ministry of Social Policy develop the strategy and had significant input into the final document. I'm sorry that Margaret Guthrie couldn't be here, but I saw her last night at the Age Concern conference in Havelock North and she is certainly with us in spirit.
„X the Volunteer Community Coordinators who ran the community focus groups, and continue to work on behalf of older people at the grass roots level. You have a key role in taking the completed Strategy out into your communities, something I would like to discuss further when we meet tomorrow;
„X the Government agencies who have contributed to the action plan, on which the effectiveness of the Strategy will be ultimately judged;
„X the Ministry of Social Policy, which has been the lead agency in developing the Strategy, especially Jenni Nana for her tremendous work; and
„X the Senior Citizens Unit, Natalie Lavery and her team, who have driven the whole process with enthusiasm and dedication.

In designing the strategy, the Government held over 40 consultation meetings around the country with older people, Maori and Pacific people, non-government agencies, aged care sector representatives and various expert and advisory groups. Thank you to all those who participated. In particular,
I want to acknowledge the contribution of national organisations representing older people.

Age Concern NZ hosted a one-day forum in September 2000 which was attended by over 100 key opinion leaders from the voluntary, business, health, education, local government and central government sectors. Those attending the forum made specific recommendations about the Strategy, and the areas on which they felt it should focus.

My meetings with representatives of the Grey Power NZ Federation and local Grey Power Associations have also helped identify key issues and directions for the Strategy.

Finally, I am delighted to see in the audience a number of local authority councillors and staff. Just last year, the Positive Ageing and Intergenerational Relations research team at Victoria University released a report about the ways local authorities have responded positively to the challenge of maximising the independence and wellbeing of older people in their local communities. It is called "Creating Communities for all Ages".

The underlying theme of that report is that local authorities have an important role to play in empowering older people. The report doesn't provide 'the answer' as to how councils should respond to our ageing population, but it does provide examples of the many ways they can respond.
The only way that our goal of positive ageing will succeed is if central government, local authorities and communities work together to enhance the lives of older people. I was very encouraged by the positive feedback and the enthusiasm I got back from councils when I opened the Local Government and Older New Zealanders seminar in Wellington in November last year.

That is why we are launching the Positive Ageing Strategy today as part of a wider seminar, called Positive Ageing in Action: Communities Working Together. The aim is to build on November's seminar; share information about positive ageing policies, programmes and initiatives; and demonstrate the benefits of communities working together with local and central government.

My challenge to local authorities, following this launch, is that you develop your own strategies and action plans to promote positive ageing, in conjunction with your local communities.

The idea behind the Positive Ageing Strategy is evident in its name. It's not just about ensuring that older people can participate fully in the community in the ways they choose, it is also about encouraging people of all ages to think positively about ageing and about those who are getting older.

As Age Concern puts it: "Positive ageing is not about how to live longer nor how to avoid growing old. It is about celebrating older age."

And there is plenty to celebrate. Contrary to the stereotypes, older people have a wealth of skills, knowledge and experience to contribute to society. And they are living independently, in better health, for a longer period of time than ever before.

„X Only five per cent of older people live in residential care settings ¡V although this increases to 25 per cent for those over 85 years of age.
„X Older people make up a significant group of caregivers, especially to their spouses and grandchildren.
„X And older people are significant within the voluntary sector. Around one in three people aged 65-74 does voluntary work or helps someone outside their own home.

As people get older, many gain a greater perspective on life, a better understanding about what is really important, and a diminishing need to conform. In other words, like many things, they improve with age.

To me, positive ageing is about 'ageing with attitude'. Many older people tell me that they never feel old, that "old" is always someone 10 to 15 years older than yourself.

That is certainly true of 62-year-old Philip Marcroft. As we gather here today, Philip is halfway through a five-day cycling trip across the width of the North Island. He has cycled from Opunake, through Wanganui, Dannevirke, and today was bound for Napier and Wairoa before heading to Gisborne. He says he does this because he wants to share his own experience of the benefits of physical activity and positive attitude for health and well-being in later life. I wish Philip well on his travels, and hope that I have the same energy levels when I'm in my 60s. In fact, I could do with them now.

The benefits of positive ageing for individuals are obvious. They include good health, independence, intellectual stimulation, self-fulfilment and friendship. Society as a whole has a lot to gain from these outcomes. A healthy, happy and confident older population contributes a wealth of expertise and skills to the community and workforce, places less demand on social services, and provides positive role models for younger generations.

This is becoming more important than ever, as older people increase as a proportion of the total population ¡V an international trend that has significant policy implications for all nations throughout the world.

Unfortunately, ageing is not always a positive experience. For some people, it means poverty, isolation, boredom and loss of self-esteem. For others, it can bring ill health and insecurity.

Even those who have resources and support can be held back by widespread prejudices about ageing. The words of the old Beatles song, "Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64?" lie at the heart of what most of us fear about ageing. Not death, but neglect; not the added years, but the loss of love, security and respect.

That is why we need the New Zealand Positive Ageing Strategy.

The Strategy is a blueprint for central government to ensure that older people¡¦s contributions are valued, that their issues are addressed, and that we commit to an environment which encourages positive ageing.

It provides a framework within which all Government policy with implications for older people can be commonly understood and developed.

The strategy document outlines key policy principles for positive ageing, and sets out priority goals and key actions in 10 areas: income, health, housing, transport, ageing in place, cultural diversity, rural issues, attitudes, employment and opportunities.

It is a living document with annual action plans for government agencies, and a monitoring system to check on how they are going.

I consider that the development of a cross-portfolio action plan is the most important feature of the Strategy. And I am pleased to say that there have been positive responses to it from other Ministers and government departments.

This year's plan covers 26 different portfolios. It shows how each Government department will meet the needs and challenges of an ageing population, and incorporate positive ageing principles into their everyday work. This practical checklist is the way in which we will measure our progress and achievements.

Many of the strategy¡¦s goals will take time to achieve. That is to be expected. However, the obligation for reporting on progress will be, I believe, a much better insurance against decisions being made without considering their impacts on positive ageing.

It is vital that today's launch of the Positive Ageing Strategy is not seen as the end of our journey. In fact it is a beginning. It is an explicit articulation of Government¡¦s commitment to create a society in which all New Zealanders can age in a positive way.

We must also recognise that ageing is a lifelong process, and that the vision of the Strategy will only be achieved if people of all ages have positive attitudes to ageing, and New Zealanders are healthy throughout all of life¡¦s stages.

In fact, I'm a firm believer that 'positive ageing begins at birth', the topic of this afternoon's fun debate. So, knowing that I shall be back to advance that theme this afternoon, may I now formally launch the New Zealand Positive Ageing Strategy, along with the 2001/2002 Action Plan.

Congratulations to everyone who has played a role in bringing the Strategy together. I look forward to working with you on the implementation of the Strategy which will help make New Zealand truly a society for all ages.

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