Eldernet asked each of the political parties contesting the 2020 election to tell us what they see as the primary issues facing older people and what they plan to do about making older people’s lives easier. Here is the response from Tim Macindoe, National MP for Hamilton West and National’s spokesperson for seniors.
Seniors issues assumed even greater importance this year as a result of our shared COVID-19 experiences, and lessons learned are reflected in National’s seniors policies for the general election.
While the weeks of our nationwide lockdown imposed significant constraints on all New Zealanders, many of those who were hardest hit were our senior citizens, especially those living in retirement villages and care facilities who felt cut off from family and friends, and those who were living independently but discouraged from shopping, or who did not have the computer skills or equipment to shop online. Many of those who did have access to computers reported frustrating delays in receiving their purchases.
Some of our seniors were prevented from returning to their rest homes after hospital treatment because of inadequate provision of COVID testing arrangements at those facilities.
Many others endured sometimes painful deferrals of vital elective surgery, were unable to consult their doctors or were separated from partners receiving hospital care. For those living with dementia the experience was especially bewildering, and distressing for their families.
We must learn from all these problems and others in considering how we might be better prepared for a future epidemic response in this country – although we all pray that such a plan will never need to be implemented.
National is committed to responding appropriately to the increasing incidence of dementia arising from the fact that we are living longer. We will rectify the current government’s failure to include dementia care in their Budget 2019 Mental Health announcements. We are supportive of the dementia care programme that is being promoted by Alzheimer’s New Zealand.
National will facilitate independent living by promoting greater digital inclusion and measures to facilitate shared living for those who require that option, while supporting those who require assistance to continue living in their own homes.
National has supported recent calls for the establishment of the Seniors Advocate (similar to the role of Children’s Commissioner) and we would expect that position to have a major focus on the all too prevalent scourge of physical, emotional and financial elder abuse. We will also support measures to lower the incidence of suicide among our senior population.
National is committed to keeping Government Superannuation at no less than 66 percent of the average wage, while phasing in a rise in the age of eligibility for superannuation from 65 to 67 from 2037. This means that everyone currently over the age of 48 will continue to receive the pension from their 65th birthdays, while younger New Zealanders have adequate time to prepare for the change to ensure the long-term sustainability of the scheme as the average life expectancy continues to increase.
I am committed to helping seniors overcome the problem many experience from ‘digital exclusion’, and to ensuring that the needs and concerns of older New Zealanders are heard, respected and appropriately responded to in the policies and decisions of a National-led administration.