It's not difficult to be kind

Kia ora and welcome to this issue of The Old Times. It never ceases to amaze me how a small, random act of kindness, can have such a profound and lasting effect. 

As a new immigrant in 2002, we'd arrived with two children under the age of three, six suitcases and very little money. Not long after arriving, our car was towed. Our entire week's allocation of funds was spent on retrieving it; we felt desperate and hopeless, however, earlier in the day, we'd chatted with a lovely lady from our local church. She had no idea of what was to unfold, or that we were about to face a pretty dire week. The day after the car incident, she knocked on our door and said, 'I had a feeling you might need some help'; she stood there with four bags of groceries including nappies - it was as if I'd done the shopping myself! What a humbling and wonderful gift.

As I start my 19th year of living in the beautiful Aotearoa, I remain ever grateful for the unexpected kindness shown to our family. 

"Kindness makes a fellow feel good whether it's done to him or by him.”  – Frank A. Clark

Best wishes 

Lucy Willard
Membership and Events Coordinator

Are we ready for an older New Zealand?
New Zealand's population is aging rapidly, but how quickly are we adjusting to the needs of older people?  

Experts say we will need to build footpaths differently, increase the time traffic lights allow for pedestrians to cross, make bus travel more comfortable and provide better protection against elder abuse.

Statisticians predict that by 2050, up to 27 per cent of New Zealanders will be over 65, compared to 15 per cent in 2016.  Similarly stark, is the increase in those over 85. Currently there are 83,000 people in that bracket; by 2060, it's predicted there will be 383,000.

The increase for Māori, Pacific and Asian people will be even more pronounced, as health outcomes for those groups improve.

Dr Ngaire Kerse is a GP, a professor at the University of Auckland, and last year was appointed the Joyce Cook Chair of Ageing Well – a privately-funded research and advocacy position.

Kerse's extensive research includes the LiLACS study, which followed a cohort of about 1000 people aged over 80, living in the bay of Plenty; 400 of those were Māori.

We found that 65 per cent of 85-year-old non-Māori were living alone, and 50-something per cent of Māori age 80 to 90 women were living alone.

"They obviously are independent and managing their own stuff, gardening, eating their own food… but actually – muscle strength, aerobic capacity, and other medical conditions mean that they tend to be much more fragile.

"We need to develop lots of ways for people to support their mobility in those old-aged times."

Similarly important, says Kerse, is ensuring older people remain connected and keep their cognitive function.

The realities of an ageing population – the increased cost of healthcare and superannuation, as well as the social concerns of loneliness and elder abuse – present difficult decisions for policy makers.

One suggestion is an aged care commissioner, originally mooted by advocacy group Grey Power, and now being spearheaded by broadcaster Mark Sainsbury.

But Kerse isn't convinced this would be the best use of funds.  "It will be an expensive thing – it will need a support service and an office to support them.

"I'd almost rather that money was given to the contracts for residential aged care."

Kerse says Government – both central and local – have an important role to play in embracing an ageing population.

"You want the environment to be good, you want the pavements to be good, you want the transport people to give older people the time to cross the road when the lights go red.

"Central government needs to work with policies, but local government could have a much stronger role in making cities age friendly, and then the health agencies need to be very much integrated with transport and housing."

As the number of older people increases, so too does the risk of them. 

Auckland lawyer Juliet Moses, who specialises in estate planning and trusts, says capacity – whether someone is still able to make sound decisions – is the biggest issue in the elder law sector.

"The difficulty is that there isn't really one prevailing test for capacity in New Zealand.

She says elder abuse is an ever-present risk in dealing with older people, and lawyers need to know the signs.

"We're not medical experts, obviously, but we have to know enough to know when someone should be medically assessed.

"There can be, especially in fraught family situations, issues where for example somebody does have capacity but somebody else is saying they don't, because they want to take advantage of that person.

"A big red flag is when you have an elderly person, who is brought in by… an adult child, who insists on sitting in the meeting and giving all the instructions and the elderly person just nods along a bit."

Her advice for old people, perhaps unsurprisingly, is to get a lawyer.

"It is really what you should be doing – making a will, and I'd also say doing powers of attorney."

Valuing Age - The economic contribution of older New Zealanders

New Zealand has an ageing population. New Zealanders are living longer, healthier and more active lives. The ageing of our population is often portrayed in terms of increased costs; including costs of health care, residential care and New Zealand Superannuation.

The positive contribution that is made by older people to our public, families, employment, volunteering and community, deserves much wider recognition and respect.

Older people work, volunteer, provide care and participate widely in community and family life. Many families, communities and organisations depend on older people for their skills, knowledge and experience; older people provide care and support to thousands of others who benefit from their assistance. With one of the highest rates of over 65’s workforce participation, older New Zealanders are significant economic contributors through taxation, spending and saving. Older people form an important, growing market for the providers of goods and services.

Every aspect of New Zealand life is greatly enriched by the active involvement of those over 65. 
This Valuing Age infographic draws on existing research, including ‘The Business of Ageing’ and shows the positive economic impact and contribution made by older New Zealanders. 

Would you like more company?

If you are feeling lonely, or would just like more social contact, it’s important to do something about it, and Age Concern can help. Our Accredited Visiting Service is a befriending service that provides regular visits to older people who would like more company. Our visitors are volunteers who are keen to spend time with an older person for about an hour each week to enjoy conversation and shared interests and activities.

Our Clients tell us that they feel happier and less lonely because of having a visitor, and that the service makes a positive difference in their lives. Here are some of the things our clients have told us:

  • I am not so lonely and feel I have a friend.
  • Having a conversation with him makes me feel happier, because he is a very interesting and friendly man.
  • I was lonely; feeling isolated, with no light at the end of the tunnel, and didn't want to be here. Completely alone; no family. My visitor is a good listener, and we have become good friends and I look forward to her visits.
  • I have someone of my own.
If you would like to know more about the Accredited Visiting Service please contact Age Concern on 07 838 2266.

Preventing bone injury in older women wins NZ science award

A medical breakthrough in bone disease prevention has won researchers a top New Zealand health award and perhaps a global rethink of how to prevent fractures in older women. 

Dr Anne Horne, Distinguished Professor Ian Reid and their team at the University of Auckland recently won the NZ Health Research Council's Liley Medal for showing a drug called zoledronate "significantly" lowers bone fractures in post-menopausal women.

Horne said the trial results, a paper in the New England Medical Journal and the medal were "right up there" in her career. 

"This is one of the more important things we have done," said Reid in an email. 

The researchers were interested in post-menopausal women because they suffer bone fractures more often than men.

Before menopause, women produce estrogen and it helps keeps bones "turning over" – that is, bone cells are refreshed through a variety of processes. There's a balance between bone loss and bone gain, said Horne.

After menopause, however, there's less estrogen and a net loss of bone in many women.

This increases the chances of bone factures – and leads to many women losing height.

The purpose of their eight-year effort was to see if zoledronate​ could prevent bone loss and therefore bone fractures in post-meopausal women.

And it does. 

"The risk of … fractures was significantly lower in women with osteopenia​ who received zoledronate than in women who received placebo," concluded the authors.

Osteopenia is when bones have weakened, but not yet to the point of osteoporosis, which is characterised by bones that fracture easily.

Preventing a slide into osteoporosis  is an important health goal for researchers and women.
Zoledronate "binds to the surface of bones and makes them resistant to the action of bone [loss]", said Reid. "In effect, zol resets the balance between bone formation and bone resorption to what it was in pre-menopausal life."

From an initial mailout to almost 102,000 older women in Auckland, Horne and her small team identified 2000 who met criteria. Their average age was 71.

Half got zoledronate and half a placebo at 18 month intervals. All were followed for six years.

The drug reduced total fractures by about one third, which is a lot, Horne said. 

Those on the drug were also found to have shrunk less than the placebo group.

Zoledronic acid was patented in 1986 and approved for medical use in the United States in 2001. It's on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines.

It has a "satisfactory safety profile", wrote Horne and Reid. They've been researching the drug for more than 20 years. 

Recruiting and following 2000 ladies was a feat, Horne said. All were over 65 and some in their 80s. They had to travel to the University of Auckland for periodic tests and injections. They had to fast on occasions. "It was a huge commitment from them," she said.

Horne led this work with the women.

Reid is travelling the world presenting on the research. In recent weeks, he's been in Holland, Greece and Taiwan. The US National Institutes of Health has funded a similar trial with zoledronate, while European researchers are planning to repeat the study in a larger group and with a focus on heart and cancer benefits. 

Other countries have incorporated the study findings into clinical guidelines or are seeking funding for broader use of zol.

The Liley Medal recognises "outstanding work, and a lead contribution in health research that is internationally recognised".

Research should be a "game changer and genuine breakthrough".

Housing, work, public transport: Govt launches strategy for ageing population

Helping older people to work if they want to and countering ageism are key aspects of the Government's plan to support New Zealand's ageing population.

The strategy, called Better Later Life – He Oranga Kaumātua 2019 to 2034, was launched today by Seniors Minister Tracey Martin and aims to ensure older people can participate in society and be valued as they age.

"It has also been designed to ensure New Zealand is prepared for and makes the most of our ageing population," Martin said in a statement.

By 2034, 1.2 million New Zealanders - about a quarter of the population - will be aged 65+, and an estimated 179,000 people will be aged 85+, twice as many as last year.

The number of Māori aged 65+ will more than double (from 48,500 to 109,400) between 2018 and 2034, as will the senior Pacific population (from 21,300 to 46,700), while the number of senior Asian New Zealanders will almost triple (from 59,500 to 171,900).

Seniors currently make up around 6.2 per cent of the workforce, but that is expected to grow to 10.6 per cent by 2033.

The demographic shifts will have implications for the economy, workforce, housing, health and aged care, and social services, Martin said.

Better Later Life has five key areas for action:

• Financial security and economic participation
• Healthy ageing and improving access to services
• Diverse housing choices and options
• Opportunities for participation and social connection
• Making environments accessible.

"For example, two key areas of the strategy are supporting seniors in the workforce, and promoting housing options appropriate for older people," Martin said.

"It is also important as a country that we have policies and initiatives that help people to keep connections throughout their lives and stop them being isolated or lonely.

"Ageism, discrimination, negative stereotypes and attitudes towards older people all impact on the quality of later working lives and are considered in the strategy."

An action plan will be developed based on the strategy's key areas and progress will be tracked by two-yearly reporting on what has been done.

The Government has already upgraded the SuperGold website and announced plans to introduce a new SuperGold app.

It also has the Age-friendly New Zealand programme which, among other things, aims to have wide pedestrian crossings and footpaths, public transport to health centres, shops and parks, and affordable housing close to services.

Martin launched the strategy at the Better Later Working Lives Forum at Parliament this morning.

"The forum is a great opportunity to talk about the ageing workforce and to address the challenges that people over 50 often face in participating in the workforce."

Join Yumi Yoshida in the Members Lounge on Friday 29th November at 11.30am and learn the art of Origami
Yumi has been a Trustee of the Waikato Japanese Community Trust since 2012. She has held Origami workshops every year at schools and cultural events in Hamilton, and currently has an Origami display at the Hamilton Central Library on the ground floor.

Weekly Fixtures At The Celebrating Age Centre

A wide range of activities take place weekly and monthly at the Celebrating Age Centre, see below and contact us on 07 838 2266 for more details. 

9.30-10.15: Zumba Gold
10.00-11.30: Greypower Seminar (no charge)
11.00-12.00: Tai Chi

9.30-10.30: Sit and Be Fit

Chinese Golden Age Society Programme

10.00-11.00: Upright and Active
1.00-2.30: Tai Chi
1.00-3.00: U3A French

9.30-11.00: Friday Education Seminar Session:

8 Nov - John Macintosh, Life Unlimited; 'Life with a Disability or Mobility issue'
15 Nov - New World ishop/GPSOS
22 Nov - Life and Travels
29 Nov - Brent - South Australia Ambulance Service Exchange
6 Dec - End of Year Function
7 Feb - Welcome to 2020
14 Feb - Valentines Day - A Walk Through the Ages
21 Feb - Cascades - Retirement Apartments
28 Feb - Jodie Collins - Confessions of a Business Owner

(Most activities have a small cost component)


More information to follow about our end of year function to be held at the Celebrating  Age Centre in Hamilton
RECIPE: Lemon Honey
   With the plethora of lemons still available, why not make some lemon honey or curd to use on scones, as a filling in pies or tarts, or on toast. This recipe can be found on the Senior Chef website. 
Read the latest issues of Senior Watch for articles on topics including:

The family of an elderly woman who died after suffering injuries at a rest home want answers - Read more

Warning others about scams did not prevent South Canterbury SeniorNet chair from falling victim - Read more

Retirement Commissioner: Higher tax rate for working pensioners worth considering - Read more

Read these recent issues in full:

Senior Watch 28th October 2019     Senior Watch 4th November 2019