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Our ageing population is a hot topic right now. I’ve enjoyed keeping this blog which I’ve thought of as a sort of pinboard for bits and pieces I’ve found relating to this issue.

The best link I discovered while writing here would have to be The New Old Age: Caring and Coping, a blog on the New York Times website. The blog is beautifully written, and discusses everything from death and dying to the psychological benefits of meal deliveries. It also deals with tricky topics like end-of-life care and living with Alzheimer’s. It seems to be written with the baby-boomer in mind, but I think the topics are relevant to anyone and everyone. In the sidebar, the blog is described thus:

Thanks to the marvels of medical science, our parents are living longer than ever before. Adults over age 80 are the fastest growing segment of the population; most will spend years dependent on others for the most basic needs. That burden falls to their baby boomer children. In The New Old Age, Paula Span and other contributors explore this unprecedented intergenerational challenge.

As far as a New Zealand perspective goes, I am able to break down the material I found for my blog into several categories or issues:

POPULATION CHANGE

A new global study into population growth by the United Nations found that we currently live in the oldest world we’ve ever had.

You can read more about the study and what it means for the world here.

Statistics New Zealand reports that one in 5 people are predicted to be over 65 by the late 2020s. I wrote about this report here.

I wonder how we will cope with the social and financial costs of this changing demographic.

HOUSING

This continues to be contentious, as it is in this country for everyone. (As I write, the PM has just issued a statement about housing affordability) But housing for the elderly remains to be a huge issue.

Residential Care-

Age Concern estimates about 34000 New Zealanders to be living in residential care facilities such as rest homes. This is a good option for some people, but there are deep concerns about the day-to-day ethics and management of these facilities, which are often owned by large corporations posting big profits. In addition to worries about the care of the residents themselves, many have voiced concerns about the treatment of the carers, too.

In this post I wrote about Dr Judy McGregor, Human Rights Commissioner, who famously went under-cover as a care worker and published her Caring Counts report, in which she expressed concerns about the ‘modern-day slavery’ she came across.

In May last year, the government passed urgent legislation to ensure less people could claim subsidies on the cost of rest home care. Meaning fewer people will be eligible for a subsidy.

I also wrote about Maori in residential care (2% in 2008) and the different options being developed in this area.

Home-based care-

Most older people prefer to stay in their own homes, but there are lots of ways in which this is made difficult. Health problems are most obvious, but in-home care is widely available. Another issue is money. Rising rates can make it expensive to stay, and every winter the media dishes up many a story of a cold, hungry pensioner going to bed early so as not to incur the costs of the heating bill. Here are some posts I wrote about these issues-

life on the pension

electricity infelicity

supergold for some

LONELINESS/ISOLATION

I think this continues to be a concern in our fast, career-driven society. Community can be more difficult to come by these days, and some elderly feel it keenly.

sex and loneliness

loneliness in nz- survey

On a more cheerful note: it hasn’t all been worrying news. In my internet travels, I’ve found a lot of joyful material relating to elderly people. There’s the story of 83-year old Mavis who still lives happily in her own unit, relying on help from her daughter and in-home carers. I found quite a lot of material relating to elderly people in entertainment: the 91-year-old contestant in NZ’s Got Talent, for example, the brilliant hiphoperation crew as well as a host of other films and shows focusing on elderly issues, with unexpected twists.

And of course, my personal favourite, the elderly flash mob in downtown Auckland.

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hip-operationThank you Erin, for the tip-off about this sweet little story!

TV3 News aired a piece about this group of elderly hip-hoppers on Waiheke Island. The group consists of 45 people aged 65 to 100 who meet weekly to practice their moves. They are the HIP OPERATION CREW.

The crew are practicing towards the Auckland Regional HipHop Championships in March, the winner of which will compete in Las Vegas.

You can watch the full clip here.

 

(photo: whanauoraservices.co.nz )

(photo: whanauoraservices.co.nz )

This article by fellow Whitireia student Damon points to statistics showing the Maori population has doubled in the past ten years, at least the elderly portion of the population, anyway.

Statistics NZ say that there are now about 5000 Maori over the age of 80, while ten years ago there were 2400.

While it is pointed out that the proportion of older Maori is still lower than the general population, (around 160,000 over the age of 80), the correlation between living longer and a healthy diet and active lifestyle is also made.

A traditional, simple diet comprising fresh produce, some meat and little to no sugar combined with physical activity is helping older Maori to stay healthy and live longer, says the former manager of Nga Whakatauki Trust Connie Rasmussan.

It makes me wonder how much is being done now to support older people in maintaining these healthy and active lifestyles- for example, is it possible for those in rest homes to access fresh produce or vegetable gardens?

 

I recently found The New Old Age, a blog by the New York Times about ageing and today’s changing population. It’s beautifully written and diverse: topics range from assisted living to cancer treatment, grandparents to elder care during natural disasters.

One particular blog post that caught my eye was this one- How in the world will we care for all the elderly? by Judith Graham. She digs into the latest UN Population Fund study (I wrote about it here) and finds some amazing points: the one that stands out clearly is that the ageing population issue is something we tend to associate with first-world countries, but it’s not. In fact, developing countries in Asia and Africa are experiencing the most rapid growth of those over 60.

Developing countries are also seeing the fastest growth in the ‘oldest old’ (80 years and over.)

And an interesting point (because my Dad turned 60 recently) is that around the world 58 million people will turn 60 this year.

If you’re interested in the world’s ageing population, I highly recommend a dip into The New Old Age.

Olivia Turner (photo: NZ Women’s Weekly)

This is Olivia Turner, the oldest semi-finalist in the much-loved programme NZ’s Got Talent. My kids are rather partial to this show, and I must admit that I was happily surprised to see Turner’s performance, which was brilliant and part of what I think is a showcase of NZ’s diversity and colour.  She is a talented singer, and seems at once humble and confident. There was much made in the media, and on the show itself, about Turner’s age- 91.

That left me thinking, why do we expect so little of our older members of society? Why is it considered unusual and amazing that an elderly person would stand and be a part of this piece of our popular culture?

You can read more about OT here and here.

 

This article is a great profile of an 83-year old and her current living situation. Mavis Hayden still enjoys living alone in her sunny unit, but relies on daily home help teamed with support from her daughter. The article goes into statistical detail about the ‘grey tsunami’ that is due to hit our country in the near future and reports that some aged care facilities are closing for financial reasons.
The thought is very much that older NZers will have to think about a mix of care options as they age.
You can find the latest statistics on NZ’s elderly population here.

It’s not all doom and gloom in the world of older people. Here are some elderly-inspired treasures that I’ve come across lately:

YOUNG AT HEART – a 2008 documentary about a choir of senior citizens who sing rock songs. You can watch the trailer here

BETTY WHITE’S OFF THEIR ROCKERS– this is a 2012 TV series featuring Hollywood star Betty White, who just turned 90. The premise of the show is that elderly people play pranks on younger ones. Naturally, these turn on their head the long-held notions we have about elderly behaviour. You can watch a small clip here.

ADVANCED STYLE– this is a blog which features beautifully dressed older people, focusing on their fashion sense. It’s truly inspiring.

Do you know any other films/blogs/docos, etc that celebrate older people?