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Supporting our older people . . . Age Concern volunteers (from left) Val Orme, Debbie Melton, Debbie George (Age Concern Otago executive officer), Nancy Pickworth, Marjorie O'Hara, Heather McElroy and Carole Wood gather at a gentle exercise and afternoon tea event. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

The International Day of Older Persons on October 1 is a good time to reflect on the many ways older people improve and enrich our society – in the Waitaki district and across New Zealand.

New Zealanders are living longer, healthier, more active lives, and with 25% of Waitaki’s population already over 65 – and counting – their contribution to our local community is significant.

Consumer spending by New Zealand seniors each year is currently more than $20.5 billion, and seniors are more likely to shop locally rather than driving elsewhere or shopping online.

Older people are also generous with their time (and charitable donations), supporting voluntary organisations, the creative arts, and their families/whanau, and are often involved in local politics.

Just think about what happened in March when Covid hit, and over-70s were asked to stay at home.

Suddenly, organisations around the country had to scramble to cover vital activities such as Meals on Wheels deliveries, provide van and bus services, and fill gaps in other support services. Similarly, many working parents could not manage without the loving support of grandparents.

According to Statistics NZ, in 2018 there were 163,275 New Zealanders over 65 in the workforce, and this is predicted to grow to 319,00 by 2036.

Older employees are valued for their life experience, skills, and their reliability and motivation – and seniors’ contributions currently represent about $5.5 billion in New Zealand tax revenues each year – $5.5 billion should buy quite a lot of services.

How will you mark the International Day of Older Persons on October 1?

Here are some ideas:

  • Ring your mum, dad or grandparents.
  • Visit an older neighbour or relative for a chat and a cup of tea. Take the time to get to know them better – maybe you will also learn something about yourself.
  • Volunteer your time with Age Concern or one of the other great local organisations that supports older people. You will make some wonderful new friends.
  • If you are a business owner, consider offering a special discount to encourage and welcome older shoppers into your cafe or shop.

By the numbers in New Zealand:

  • 4.5 – the hours seniors spend each day on volunteer work
  • 7 – the percentage of the workforce over the age of 65
  • 9500 – grandparents raising grandchildren
  • $11 billion – the annual value of volunteer work by people over 65

★ Caitriona Prunty is the Waitaki co-ordinator for Age Concern Otago.