Let’s celebrate the success story of living longer!
The fact that more people are living longer than ever before is something we should be celebrating as an outstanding achievement. Older people make huge contributions to maintaining our social fabric through their life skills and life experience; be that as workers, as parents or grandparents, as caregivers or as active members of the community.
Living longer and generally healthier lives is creating fundamental changes. The numbers alone speak for themselves:
- The number of people aged over 65 will nearly double to over one million in the next 15 years
- By the late 2020’s (less than 15 years’ time) there will be more people aged over 65 than children aged 15 or less
- By 2036 the number of people aged over 80 will have more than doubled to 392.000.
We would all wish to live in a society that values the lives of older people. Yet all too often older people are portrayed as a burden on society, suffer from ageism, are exploited or even abused. The high esteem in which elders – kaumatua and kuia – are held in the Māori culture, for instance, is not necessarily reflected in our society’s dominant attitudes.
The realities of our ageing population have a very real human dimension. As we age many of us are likely to face some degree of social isolation, loneliness or depression. For the two-thirds of older people who are almost entirely dependent on Government Superannuation there can be a fine line between ‘making do’ and struggling to make ends meet as living costs rise.
What choices will we have as we grow older?
We are all faced with some challenging questions: Where and how shall we live? Who is there to help us when it is needed? What choices do we have?
As more and more of us live longer lives, these questions become more complex. A failure to provide a range of answers to these questions increases the likelihood that as we age we may be left vulnerable to poverty, loneliness and sickness. Christian social services have a long tradition of supporting older people, of developing innovative responses to needs and of seeking to work in partnership with government to plan future services.
We know that, wherever we choose to live and particularly for those with little wealth or high needs:
- We need support from care workers and health professionals who are well-trained to give the best care and support regardless of setting.
- Existing homes will need to be modified to better suit changing needs and many of us will need advice and financial assistance to do this.
- Good support networks reduce loneliness and are the lifeblood of vibrant communities.
Real choices as we age – let us look after each other
Independence for older people often means maintaining choice and control. This is done by making sure that healthcare, support services and strong communities are available when needed. This reflects a central message of Christian teaching that we are all interdependent and need to look after each other. This is the way towards a truly just and compassionate society. Below are some resources to help reflect on the issues:
In this booklet the Presbyterian Church looks at the Christian tradition and what it has to say about ageing. It includes analysis of the social and spiritual aspects of our ageing society, with discussion questions and much food for thought. Download the booklet
Ageing is Living
“Ageing is living – Recipes for life” is a project of Age Concern NZ to encourage all New Zealanders to age well. Download the booklet
Dr Mason Durie reflects on the role of older people as carriers of culture, anchors for families, models for lifestyle, bridges to the future, bulwarks for industry, guardians of landscape and leaders of communities and nations.