Age-friendly initiatives in New Zealand
There are many age-friendly initiatives happening in communities around New Zealand.
The communities identify projects which are important to them, generally based on eight themes adapted from the WHO Age-Friendly Cities model.
The New Zealand context is developed through the Community Connects programme.
Projects often encompass more than one area. For example, improving access to a service may include aspects of communication and information, transport, community support and health services.
Communication and Information
Communication and information about events and important services need to be easy for people to access and understand, and reflect the diversity of the community.
Many seniors use the internet and the use of social media is on the rise.
Many local organisations use social media, such as Facebook, to reach seniors who also see it as a way of staying in touch with the local community.
Local media, newsletter, brochures and community meetings are also key ways to reach seniors.
For those wanting to use the latest technology but not sure where to start, the SeniorNet programme is run throughout New Zealand at very little (if any) cost to participants.
SeniorNet is a community training network that supports and motivates people aged 50-plus to enjoy and use technology in their everyday lives.
Classes cover everything from simple word-processing to sending emails and searching the internet.
People gain the skills and confidence needed to get the most out of information technology.
More information can be found at www.seniornet.co.nz.
Cooking classes for seniors are run throughout New Zealand.
Senior Chef classes are run in more than 10 regions including Canterbury, Tauranga and Hawke’s Bay.
Senior Chef is an 8-week cooking class for people, aged 65-plus, who want to improve their cooking skills, confidence, or motivation around cooking for one or two people.
Each weekly class includes:
- nutrition education, for example, eating well for seniors, menu planning, budgeting, shopping tips.
- preparing and cooking a meal in pairs.
- sharing the meal with the group.
- classes are held in various locations around Canterbury and other regions. For specific locations contact your region.
In most regions, Senior Chef is free to attend.
Everything, including the ingredients for the cooking class and recipe book are provided.
More information can be found at www.seniorchef.co.nz
Social participation is seniors being able to interact with family and friends, and also with people in the wider community in which they live.
Age Concern Taranaki introduced aqua-jogging classes for seniors in 2014 to help bolster participants' balance and strength, and prevent falls.
While exercise is the driving factor for this initiative the social connections made are equally important.
As a result, the class achieves a number of age-friendly aims – falls prevention, active ageing, social inclusion and the forging of friendships.
Palmerston North’s Age Concern is focused on combatting social isolation by bringing young and old together.
Something as straightforward as taking a group of preschool children to a local retirement home has been a positive boon for everyone involved.
There are plans to widen the visits to other retirement homes.
The next step is to bring in other age groups like teenagers.
At present, groups of volunteers – including local Councillors – walk Palmerston North’s streets at night reaching out to teenagers.
Older volunteers bring their experience and wisdom to this programme.
Organisers says the interactions between young and old can combat teenage loneliness.
The community’s respect for seniors and their role in society is shown with positive examples of ageing and inter-generational understanding.
The wisdom and experience of local kaumātua (or older persons over 55 years of age) is the foundation for Hamilton’s Aroha Ngā Mokopuna programme which works with schools to identify and address the health, wellbeing and cultural needs of tamariki in years 1 to 13.
The four-year pilot project is funded by the Ministry of Health's Te Ao Auahatanga Hauora Māori: Māori Innovation Fund. The key priority for this funding is ‘Tikanga a Tamariki Mokopuna’ – meaning Te Ao Māori (a Māori world view) approach to whānau health and wellbeing through improved child health outcomes.
The Aroha Ngā Mokopuna programme is delivered by a team of kaumātua who have professional backgrounds in health, teaching and/or social work. As well as delivering health promotion services, the team of kaumātua bring a wealth of knowledge from decades of experience. The intergenerational activity between tamariki and kaumātua helps to connect the old with the new.
Employment and Community involvement
With an ageing population and an ageing workforce, seniors have a valuable contribution to make.
Seniors are recognised for their productivity in the workplace, and are actively involved in the community through volunteering, supporting local events and taking part in local politics.
Outdoor spaces and public buildings
An age-friendly community has places to enjoy and outdoor activities that are safe and are easy to access for all ages.
A playground for adults has been opened at Kulim Park in Tauranga.
It’s an outdoor gym specifically designed to help seniors boost their strength.
Seniors United to Promote Age-Friendly NZ (Supa-NZ) is the organisation which promoted its installation and fundraised for it. The project has been supported by the city’s Elder Forum and its offshoot, the Older Persons Activity Forum.
In an age-friendly community, everyone’s needs are considered when it comes to footpaths, road signs, traffic lights, and public transport.
Maintaining mobility for seniors is crucial for wellbeing, access to services and continued connection to communities.
The Whangarei City Council has a 70+ parking fee exemption card that entitles residents aged 70-plus to park their cars for free at any council car park in Whangarei for the maximum time indicated on the meter or car park.
At least 8,000 cards have been issued.
Many councils offer subsidised transport (such as taxis through the Total Mobility Scheme) for people who can’t access regular transport services; a large number of whom are seniors.
Community support and health services
People need community-related services which support their physical and mental well-being, and promote healthy behaviours and life choices.