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Liam Butler interviews Dr Stephen Neville

Liam Butler interviews NZ Association of Gerontology President, Dr Stephen Neville

29 April 2014

Liam Butler

Question 1:

One of the aims of the NZAG is to stimulate debate and action on improving the well-being of older-people. Many different stakeholders encourage older people to live in many different places. What should older people think about when they are looking at accommodation and care options to ensure they are happy?

There are indeed a significant number of housing and accommodation options available to older people, including retirement village living. Large corporate organisations, some of which are listed on the stock exchange, offer seemingly attractive services that include full health facilities, gyms, swimming pools, as well as piece of mind.

NZAG believes that any older person considering other accommodation options need to talk to friends and family, seek professional advice from community organisations such as Grey Power and Age Concern, as well as run their ideas past a lawyer.

If people decide that living in a retirement village is for them it is crucial to read and understand their contractual obligations. It is also important to remember that if older people find it difficult to manage in their own home it might be cheaper and less disruptive to make alterations to an existing home and ‘buy in' help as needed.

Question 2:

Another aim of the NZAG is to promote study and quality research on ageing. What are some of the exciting initiatives NZAG is involved in that supports the dissemination of research on ageing in NZ?

NZAG has a relationship with the Australian Association of Gerontology and both organisations are working together to deliver regular research based webinar presentations. A webinar is an on-line platform where people from anywhere can register, log in and listen to research presentations on issues related to ageing. For example, the April Webinar is on spirituality.In February NZAG co-hosted Professor Simon Biggs' visit to New Zealand, which was made possible through the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies, Victoria University of Wellington. Professor Biggs visited and presented his research across the country.

September 2014 will see NZAG hosting our biannual conference in Dunedin. This hugely popular conference is always well attended by local as well as international speakers.

Question 3.

The NZAG seeks to actively contribute to public discussion and policy on ageing. In this election year what do you want to see publically debated and why?

NZAG has identified three specific issues that we think need to be publically debated leading up to the 2014 election. Firstly, the age group 85 plus is the fastest growing part of our population with most of this group living in mainstream housing in the community. The majority of which are women and many live alone. A high proportion of people aged 85 years and older live with some level of disability and require varying levels of support. NZAG wants to know how each of the political parties intends to meet the needs of this growing group? We also ask whose responsibility is it to provide support to those aged 85 years and older.

Secondly due to demographic changes, increasing numbers of older people will require formal supported living arrangements in residential care facilities because they can no longer live safely in their communities. Our question to political parties is how should this responsibility be shared between individuals, families, local communities, voluntary organisations and the state? Also how can the public of New Zealand be assured that the care and support provided to this group is coordinated and delivered in a way that benefits consumers of residential care services and their families?

Finally global workforce statistics identify that New Zealand, and indeed many other countries in the world, need to encourage and support workers to remain in employment due to demographic changes and a decrease in the number of younger people available to work.How do we cope with the challenges of workforce ageing, which has implications for individuals, society as a whole, business and the economy? If older people are to stay longer in the paid workforce, what are the working conditions and environments that will best suit them? Business is beginning to take notice of what the future workforce might look like (driven by looming shortages of skills and labour), but there has been little response from government.

Question 4:

What would you like health professionals to know more about in the field of Gerontology?

NZAG is an organisation interested in all aspects of ageing. A number of our members are health professionals, including myself.We believe that all health professionals need to be aware and understand that getting older is more than a set of health problems that need fixing or management. Rather getting older is a dynamic process that is filled with opportunities, new experiences and excitement; in other words something to look forward to. NZAG would like to see health professional groups have a clear understanding of the social and political issues that impact on people as they get older. For example, having access to affordable and appropriate housing, to live in communities that are safe and cater to the needs associated with being older, to remain socially connected to friends, families and communities, to have sufficient income and to live in a society where discrimination is not tolerated.

Question 5.

Dr Neville can you tell me a bit more about your research and professional interests...

Currently I am the President of the New Zealand Association of Gerontology. I am also the Director of Postgraduate Programmes and a researcher in the School of Nursing at Massey University, as well as a Senior Fellow at the University of Queensland.

My area of research is broadly defined as older persons' health but I have a particular interest in the social aspects of ageing. My recent research and publications include identifying the incidence of loneliness in older people living in the community and the factors that enable people over the age of 95 years to live successfully in their own home.

I feel very privileged to be the current President of NZAG and aim to facilitate achieving the goals and aspirations of our organisation. These include providing a platform where the views, as well as the issues that impact on the health and well-being of older people are not only heard but result in positive action.

Read more articles like this at the ELDERNET GAZETTE


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