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UC research into moving old people – huge issue

UC research into moving old people – huge issue

August 27, 2012

A University of Canterbury (UC) research is breaking new ground in looking at how elderly people make possible the last shift of their lives.

UC masters student Robyn Johnston is doing a thesis on how people in their twilight years cope with a final move in accommodation. Johnston was a finalist in the UC’s annual thesis-in-three minutes competition.

``Many older people are just not prepared, particularly emotionally, for this mammoth change in life. Shifting house causes huge levels of stress at any age. For many elderly, about 80 percent move because of a crisis or trigger event such as a fall, stroke, heart-attack etc.

``Often they do not have time to adjust and farewell their home due to their lack of ability to cope at home any longer coupled with pressure from health care professionals and family members to find more suitable accommodation.’’

Johnston said it was a huge issue facing a rapidly growing number of Kiwis. As the Baby Boomers population of New Zealand start to reach retirement age the number of those over 65 is rising steadily.

By the end of 2011, Statistics New Zealand indicated that 13 percent of the population were older than 65. However, they predicted that in the next 20 years the figure would increase to more than 20 percent.

By 2026, one in five New Zealanders will be older than 65 and those aged 90 or older is expected to double on today’s numbers. In less than 10 years New Zealand will reach the mid-way point of Baby Boomers reaching retirement age.

``Seventeen percent of us will be over 65 by then. Our population is aging and the aged are living longer than they ever have before. Many older people will have to alter their living arrangements, due to their changing circumstances, more than once in their retirement years. This is often a traumatic process and can even lead to an earlier death,’’ Johnston said.

People being surveyed in her research are largely between 70 - 90 years old. Some were living independently and others were in various levels of care within retirement complexes. They lived in self-contained houses, apartments, rest home or hospitals within a complex. Some people were single, some married and in varying degrees of health and they were all keen to be involved in the research. Johnston said it was essential that the voice of the retired is heard in regards to their requirements in maintaining their self-determination. Her study aims to improve the experience of moving for the elderly.

``The research focus is on the experience of the elderly. Much of the previous research around elderly shifting for greater care has been from the perspective of care facilities, family members who facilitate the shift and health care professionals.

``Moving home is possibly the biggest single issue, apart from the death of a partner a person has to negotiate following retirement. Sometimes this shift is made with considerable advanced warning and planning. But often the move is forced on an elderly person by health care providers and or concerned family members, for a variety of reasons.

``Well-meaning family members are frequently the ones coercing their elderly parents into a shift. For many older people they are not prepared, particularly emotionally, for this massive change in life.’’

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