Auckland Council and Rodney Local Board should be utilising the wealth of knowledge, experience and community commitment that older people in and around Warkworth have when planning to improve the area’s age-friendliness.
That was the message from Auckland University of Technology academic Dr Sara Napier last month, when she presented the results of a survey into how age-friendly Warkworth was at the Board’s March meeting.
She said the study of 210 people living in Warkworth and surrounds had revealed a valuable resource of in-depth local knowledge that should be made more of by local government, as the population not only expanded rapidly, but aged as well.
“There were a lot of comments about perceived disconnection between Council and the area,” Dr Napier said. “Older people’s resourcefulness should be utilised fully – they want to engage with the Local Board and Council.
“They should be engaged collaboratively at a local level to ensure Warkworth is able to support older people to remain living in their community, especially as the population expands.”
The survey was carried out in 2019 among people over 65. Two-thirds of respondents were female and more than a third had lived in the region for more than 21 years. While the vast majority – well over 93 per cent – thought Warkworth was a good and safe place to live where people and businesses were helpful, there were several issues that made life much more difficult.
These included the state of footpaths, pedestrian crossings and public toilets (or lack of them); car parking and public transport that didn’t cater to their needs; a lack of support and information for those with no internet; and the need for more places and opportunities for social engagement.
“Fragmentation of information is a problem for older people. They need to have lots of information in one place,” Dr Napier said. “Also there is no community centre in Warkworth, a public space that all ages could access. It would help with intergenerational interaction. All respondents seemed to know of people who were quite socially isolated, so somewhere they could pop in and meet people would be good.”
She added that uneven footpaths, crossings and pedestrian access generally also made many respondents feel vulnerable.
“Things like obstructions on footpaths, such as wheelie bins, could be rectified if people were more aware that they were a problem for older people,” she said. “There are things that could quite easily be fixed.”
Warkworth’s three Local Board members, Beth Houlbrooke, Tim Holdgate and Steven Garner, thanked Dr Napier for her presentation and all expressed keen interest in how the survey could be used by the Board to improve facilities and services for older locals.
Dr Sara Napier carried out the survey as part of her doctoral thesis, The Age-Friendly Attributes of Warkworth: A Case Study of a Rural Town in NZ.
Dr Sara Napier’s survey was carried out three years ago, in 2019. Have things improved since then? What problems remain? Do you have any ideas for what could make the area more age-friendly?
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