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Just and compassionate housing needs

Just and compassionate housing needs are a major focus for older New Zealanders too

Providing vulnerable older New Zealanders with a range of choices about how and where they live in their later years is a major focus for a two-day conference on services for older people being held in Napier this week.

The conference – Justice and Compassion in Action - recognises that supported accommodation and housing issues for older people will continue to grow in future years, and will present challenges of just as much importance as current concerns about housing affordability for first-home buyers.

The two keynote international speakers at the conference are Lin Hatfield Dodds, the current president of the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), and Dr Satya Brink, of the Gerontology Research Centre at Canada’s Simon Fraser University.

Lin Hatfield Dodds is an advocate of social service and social justice, and made the Bulletin magazine’s ‘Power 100’ list of the most powerful people in Australia in 2007. In her role as National Director of UnitingCare Australia she heads an organisation that employs 35,000 staff and 24,000 volunteers who collectively deliver services to 1.8 million Australians. Under Lin’s leadership the Australian Council of Social Service issued a call during the Australian Federal Election last year for all political parties to address the needs of disadvantaged and low income Australians through a statement titled “Towards a fairer Australia”.

Dr Satya Brink specialises in studying the relationships between people at various stages of our lifespan, and was the editor of “Housing Older People”, a survey of the status of housing policies for elderly populations worldwide. This book confirmed that social attitudes to ageing rely on tradition, duty, reciprocity and altruism.

Dr Brink has been a regular commentator in Canada on the implications of an ageing population, in which she predicts more and more people will need to juggle work with caring for aged parents. “Many employers (in Canada) lose good employees because they don’t take the demands of elder care seriously,” says Dr Brink.

In 2006 Statistics Canada recorded that 2 million Canadians – mostly women over 45 – were caring for older relatives. In her research into elder care outside of formal institutions, Dr Brink places informal elder care at the nexus of family, work and health policy and argues that it should be treated systematically across all policy areas and not in one area at a time.

During the conference two housing case studies are being presented: Therese Quinlivan of Community Housing Aotearoa is presenting a United Kingdom case study of Home Improvement Agencies which provide help to older tenants to repair, maintain or adapt their homes; and Derek Morrison of Anglican Care’s Waiapu House Aged Care Centre is presenting a case study of an innovative model of supported living.

The conference was convened by the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services (NZCCSS) and is closely aligned to the Council’s recently launched programme for promoting a just and compassionate society, ‘Let Us Look After Each Other, Aroha tētahi ki tētahi’. NZCCSS members provide services that include informal, community and parish-based initiatives for older people through to formal home support services, residential aged care, supported rental accommodation and retirement villages.

ENDS

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