Active Fun by Hon. Ruth Dyson

I hear a lot of talk about older people being “given something to do” as if they don’t actually have a life to live and frankly it makes me really annoyed.  The reason that I get annoyed about this is because older New Zealanders are too often being put in a box which totally ignores their earlier lives.  They are treated as if they are children and they are not – they are grown adults and, even if they don’t have the same abilities as they may have had in previous years, they are still that person who had interests and talents, And it is in these areas that they can really have the “active fun” which is the topic of your discussion this week.

For the whole of their lives, people who are now “older” don’t suddenly lose their talent, interest or ability to do things.  They don’t need younger people, whether family or support staff, to suddenly dream up things they might be interested in and get them involved.  What they need is support to connect them with the sports, hobbies or interests that they have had and reconnect them with that activity.  This is particularly important for someone who has moved from their family home to a retirement village or rest home.

It is also really important for good health and wellbeing that older people are, in as much as possible, connected with people and organisations that they have been involved in previously. So if a person has played bowls for years and years at the local bowls club, has a stroke, goes into a retirement village or rest home, they may far prefer to go back to that club every week (or more often!!) to stay connected with their friends and former activity rather than starting games with a new group at their retirement village or rest home.

So the most important element of a genuinely active life is to remove the barriers between what an older person really enjoyed previously and what they can do now.  Often the barrier will be transport.  If an older person has moved, it might be really hard for them to get back to their venue or club.  So support them getting a ride!  And make sure that they can stay for as long or short as they wish.

Transport to and from functions, sporting and hobby activities is often the barrier between participation and loneliness.  It is often not funded by government support which I think is a funding decision which is short sighted.

Central government support should be aimed at what really makes a difference to the  quality of life of older New Zealanders .
it is not up to others to decide what will be fun. Our role as family, friends or central government, should be to see how we can remove the barriers between am older person and”active fun” and then fill that gap.

If we are serious about ensuring that older New Zealanders have a high quality of life, then we must ensure that active support is not a programme delivered to people a couple of days per  week, but a systemic programme of support to ensure that older New Zealanders  can continue to participate in their communities in the activities that they enjoy.

About Hon.Ruth Dyson

Hon.Ruth Dyson
Hon Ruth Dyson MP for Port Hills Spokesperson for Senior Citizens Ruth Dyson is the Labour Member of Parliament for the Port Hills Electorate.