The presentation of a survey into how age-friendly Warkworth and surrounds are for older people raised some interesting issues. It was ironic, though, that many of the people who would have most appreciated hearing AUT academic Dr Sara Napier’s findings were unlikely to have been present, as the Rodney Local Board meeting was held online and attendance had to be requested in advance via email.
Support and access to the internet and technology was one of the key issues raised by survey respondents so this undoubtedly limited the target audience.
However, aside from this and more predictable problems such as mobility issues and access to healthcare, Dr Napier’s research shone a light on something that potentially affects all of us, not just older people – the failure by central and local government to engage with them when planning future development and infrastructure.
The survey of more than 200 people revealed that respondents cared deeply about their community, they had extensive local knowledge and were committed to making it a better place now and in the future. Yet many felt, just because they were seniors, they were ignored by decision-makers, their talents were neglected or ignored and they had become ‘invisible’.
What a sad state of affairs this is, especially when the population is ageing ever more rapidly. Napier says the population of over-65s in Rodney is projected to rise by 107% by 2038, with over-85s expected to almost quadruple in number.
Forget any potential healthcare impacts – focus instead on what a wealth of knowledge, experience and wisdom there is in those numbers, and what a valuable resource it could be for anyone involved in the future development of our area.
While there are already age-friendly strategies in place at national and regional levels, most of these are decidedly urban-centric, and there is also no specific reference to the ageing population, age-friendliness or specific needs of older people in the current Rodney Local Board Plan.
Perhaps it’s time something was done about that. Surely it’s time that older people were brought out from the shadows of life in retirement and listened to by the powers that be, to help make local towns and communities better, more accessible places for them, and future generations, to live now and in the future.