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Source: Auckland Council

Auckland Council has welcomed the first gathering of the new Seniors Advisory Panel in time for today’s ‘International Day of Older Persons’.

The council’s demographic advisory panels had their inaugural meeting via zoom during the recent lockdown, so the opportunity for the Seniors Advisory Panel to finally meet face to face earlier this week was a great moment for the panel.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says, “Given the challenges we face with COVID-19, it is more important than ever that we work together with our communities and partner organisations to improve the age-friendliness of our city and create great outcomes for our older communities.”

David Wong-Hop, interim co-chair of the Seniors Advisory Panel says that joining the Age Friendly Cities network was a major area of focus for the panel last term and will be of ongoing interest during the coming term.

“The previous Seniors Advisory Panel were instrumental in the council’s commitment to join the global network of age-friendly cities in 2018 which is used to foster information sharing between cities worldwide so that communities become more age-friendly.”

Councillor Tracy Mulholland, Seniors Advisory Panel Liaison Councillor, says that membership of the age-friendly global network requires a commitment to a continuous improvement process for creating age-friendly environments with the expectation that an age-friendly city is more inclusive and beneficial for everyone, regardless of their age.

“Last year, over 3000 people shared their ideas on what could be done to improve the age-friendliness of Auckland through community workshops, hui, interviews and via ‘Have your Say’ and People’s Panel surveys,” explains Councillor Mulholland.

“And now we are developing a region-wide cross-sector age-friendly action plan which will be followed by an application to join the World Health Organisation Global Network of Age-friendly Cities and Communities.”

“We look forward to having an active role in the plan’s development,” says Mr Wong-Hop.

“The Seniors Advisory Panel is committed to progressing this work alongside council staff. Older Aucklanders have so much to offer Tāmaki Makaurau and we look forward to working with the council to help them engage more with us all.”

Councillor Cathy Casey, Chief Liaison Councillor for the panels is pleased the council is working with a range of organisations and communities who are active in advancing the wellbeing of older Aucklanders. She says that these stakeholders will help develop and deliver a plan to demonstrate our collective commitment to Auckland being age-friendly and inclusive.

“The council has already implemented a number of actions to make Tāmaki Makaurau an age-friendly city,” says Councillor Casey.

These actions include:

  • Developing local board age friendly action plan in Howick
  • Support for older residents in Manurewa to study
  • More inclusive and age-friendly events in Puketapapa
  • Providing a range of programmes and activities across our network of community venues that engage our 65+ population and support their physical and mental health and wellbeing, enable community participation and reduce isolation. Examples include:
    • ‘Caffeine and Craft’ a weekly programme at Te Atatu Peninsula Community Centre. People meet to share and socialise and produce crafts that are donated to local charities. The group has also begun creating masks, that are sold at a low cost, or given away to locals that may not have access to reusable masks.
    • In Avondale, the Whau Walking Samoans use the community centre every Friday morning. Members support and encourage each other to adopt walking and practice low-impact exercises, suitable for older people, to maintain good health. This is an activity designed to encourage seniors to take responsibility for their own health.

What have our libraries been up to?

Auckland Libraries made the best of COVID-19 restrictions to better engage with their older customers. Hundreds of senior Aucklanders received a phone call from their local library, checking in with them and helping to answer questions about library services in lockdown, and even offering a housebound delivery service if customers had access issues, or were at a higher risk in the community.

Library staff took the opportunity to share digital tips over the phone for downloading books, accessing free films and music and promoting the Skinny Jump subsidised internet service.

Councillor Casey reports that the feedback was that it was a wonderful experience for both staff and customers with many of those contacted saying that there were pleasantly surprised by the caring personal touch they received

“People really appreciated being kept informed of library services during lockdown and felt especially reassured about their overdue items.”

Councillor Mulholland says that a sense of being connected is so important to everyone and reminds Aucklanders to stay connected with older friends, family and community members.

“If you haven’t spoken with an older neighbour for a while or have been meaning to call your grandmother or great-uncle and haven’t quite got around to it, do it now, today is a great day to make that call!”

Gayle Marshall, interim co-chair of the Seniors Advisory Panel, agrees.

“International Day of Older Persons is a day that reminds us to prioritise the older people in our lives. Loneliness is still a very real issue for so many people, and something as simple as a smile can open the door for a conversation. Dropping around to say hello or calling someone you haven’t spoken with in a while could make a real difference to someone’s day.”

For more information about how your library can assist you as a senior Aucklander, please contact Library Connect on 09 377 0209.