An interview with an Expert Boomer

Liam Butler interviews Expert Boomer Dr Chris Perkins

Dr Chris Perkins is a Psychiatrist, ageing specialist and is an Expert Boomer for the Mental Health Foundation’s new .  It showcases how “Baby boomers support wellbeing by connecting with young people.”

What advice do you have for older people who are anxious that they do not have skills and experience to good enough to share?

Dr Chris Perkins: Older people should not be put off from giving advice in this age of the internet and instant digital information technology.  Information is not knowledge and knowledge is not wisdom.   Older people can share from what they have tried to do and have learned from themselves along the way.  They can give hope, kindness, forgiveness and respect by giving of their time and stories.  Older people know about gardening, research, history and what to do when everything turns to custard in life.  We can all share information in so many ways.  I was at Auckland University last week where new migrants where teaching people how to knit. Sharing Basic life skills of cooking, baking and recycling can really help people. 

What advice do you have to older people who feel they may not have the patience or strength to help a younger generation acquire new skills?

Dr Chris Perkins: Not all older people are naturally teachers.  But through patience and perseverance there are significant benefits for the older people who make the effort.  It helps to remember that we were once young ourselves and always rushing about.  Older people give a sense of calm and can see the big scheme of things. 

Creating family dramas, laughing in the snow together, handing down cultural values and crafts are all part of ‘Connecting the Generations’. This new section of the Mental Health Foundation’s Boomers website introduces a number of down-to-earth Kiwis and organisations actively engaged in sharing their skills and energy within their families and whanau or in their wider communities.



The Connecting the Generations stories include organisations such as SuperGrans, which helps people flourish by learning skills such as basic cooking, household management, gardening and sewing, and the Pacific Mamas, who pass on their cultural heritage to hundreds of urban Pacific schoolchildren. There’s a story of new understanding between an ageing father and his daughter as together they disassemble a much-loved garden. Grandmothers Josie and Jo share their wisdom – Josie, like many grandparents, stepped in to bring up her mokopuna after family breakdown, and Jo, who is part of the ‘sandwich’ generation, helping out with grandchildren while caring for her 95-year-old mother who has dementia, both share their wisdom. The Dallows, a close-knit three generational family, are part of a theatre project that involves youngsters and members of a retirement village, and southern man Kevin Harris helps people with disabilities enjoy the snow as part of an adaptive snow sports programme at Cardrona. Expert boomers Dr Cherryl Smith and Dr Ngaire Kerse offer insights into the benefits of positive interaction between the generations, especially in Maori communities and for our ‘oldest’ elders.

Connecting the Generations will add to the website’s information on laying the foundations for wellbeing in later years. They also reinforce the Five Ways to Wellbeing promoted by the MHF – Connect, Learn, Be Active, Take Notice, and Give.

The website also includes a recommended reading section, pointers to more in-depth information on ageing and associated topics. The Mental Health Foundation’s Information Service also holds a number of resources on ageing and can point people in the right direction for more specific information and support.


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