The next Grey Power talk
Our public meeting with Nicola Willis MP will go ahead, if Covid -19 levels permit, at 2pm on 14 October at the Tararua Tramping Club in Moncrieff Street, Mt Victoria. She is currently National’s spokesperson for Housing and Urban Development, RMA Reform (housing), and is National’s Associate spokesperson for Economic Development.
Tracing our contacts with the ministers
Grey Power members and others had a chance to ask questions of Ministers Grant Robertson (Minister of Finance and local MP) and Ayesha Verrall (Minister for Seniors) at a public meeting near Parliament organised by our branch. The Ministers arrived early, enabling Grant to give a masterclass in retail politics, glad-handing his way round the room and talking with everyone.
After our President Colleen Singleton introduced Grant and Ayesha, Grant kicked off with the Government’s successes with Covid-19 (well, that was then!) and went into how the Wellbeing Budget intended to measure the non-financial aspects of government.
Grant said that we couldn’t have got through Covid-19 without trust between people and institutions. He said that the economy had done well, especially as last year it had been in freefall and forecasts were pessimistic. Now one of the problems was finding people for jobs and that not all was rosy. There was inequality, some sectors such as tourism were still down and there was still work to be done on moving to a low-carbon economy. Grant then introduced Ayesha Verrall, who was instrumental in getting Covid-19 contact tracing sorted out.
Ayesha talked about improving the contact tracing system, and her transition from an academic outsider to a Cabinet minister. When she was asked to be Minister for Seniors, she had wondered what she knew about seniors, but then realised that she had dealt with seniors all her working life in hospitals. This was usually at a crisis point but still connected to their everyday lives. And as seniors were more vulnerable to Covid-19 they had most to lose if the Covid strategy didn’t work.
Ayesha said that revamping the new contract tracing system was essential. For example, the recent infectious Australian visitor had needed 2600 contacts to be traced.
They were also working on revamping the district health scheme to ensure different parts of the health system had the same information. Most people got annoyed when they had to repeat the same symptoms to different people at the hospital. There were also disparities between district health boards in treatment times. The new system should have the same outcomes wherever you were. One of the first things to be worked on was dementia with the aim of having consistent and timely treatment.
Other areas being worked on included digital inclusion so seniors had the skills to access the internet, and elder abuse. A common scenario for elder abuse was a young relative buying groceries for the older person, and the younger person adding their own stuff onto the card. Often the younger person thinks that it’s OK.
The Aged Care Commission was being set up and would be a body that didn’t just wait for complaints but went out to identify problems.
Then came the questions from the floor. The first one was about low-carbon goals and mass tourism. The answer was that the industry was starting to realise that mass tourism was on the way out and the aim should be on higher value. Also covered were partnerships to generate green hydrogen from our renewable power. However, public debt would be a constraint on action. When asked about the most effective ways of lobbying Grant suggested using the Wellbeing framework where you could can show the wider benefits of a particular policy.
The overseas pension clawback was brought up and Grant said it was a difficult area, as he had known it from being involved in lobbying as an MP on behalf of recipients of the Dutch pension. He said that If we wanted to change from a universal to a contributory pension change Grey Power policy would need changing, as well as Labour Party policy. Regarding the Accommodation Supplement, Grant said that it was being worked on but any increase just fueled rental inflation.
Then there was the vaccine rollout. They appeared a little embarrassed by it, but defended it strongly.
The stopping of ACC (and other benefits) at 65 was being looked at. There was also work being done on the electricity sector – we needed hydro storage to smooth out the peaks of renewable energy production, and to decide what to do with the electricity that was being used by Tiwai Point when that closed.
Big Budget increases in mental health had not led to increased services because of the lack of qualified people, but it would be ramped up.
In all, a useful exchange of views.
Spring heralds the annual Seniors’ Week and this year, from 1-8 October (subject to Covid-19 restrictions) there will be a series of community-led events for older people across the city. More information at https://wellington.govt.nz/news-and-events/events-and-festivals/seniors-week
Free membership benefit
Many of our members are unaware that when they join Grey Power, they are automatically covered by a $2000 Accidental Death & Dismemberment Policy from AI. This is included in your membership fee.
A Grey Power member in Katikati recently received a $1000 payout recently after an accidental eye injury.
The Grey Power (subsidised) lunch for financial members will be held as usual at the Grand in Courtenay Place. The provisional date is 18 November at 12.30pm. We’ll be circulating a reminder closer to the event.
News from the Fed
By our President, Colleen Singleton
Deputy President David Cuthbert and I represented the Wellington Central Grey Power Association at the Grey Power Federation AGM in Nelson mid-July. Attended by about 90 delegates representing more than two-thirds of the Associations, it is obvious that a lot of work is going on behind the scenes, yet unfortunately we haven’t seen much action. Grey Power will not be the only group advocating for issues related to seniors – it may be that we have to consider working collaboratively with other groups.
Pete Matcham (Hutt City) was re-elected Federation Vice-President and Ross Fallen (Wanganui) was elected Federation Secretary. Pete has been a Board member for a few years and is very experienced in most areas of Grey Power’s structure and work. Ross is relatively new to Grey Power Wanganui and will bring a fresh approach to the position.
Constitutional remits were passed relating to wording for membership. The outcome is that Associations are members of the Grey Power Federation and individuals are financial members. A remit on extending the age barrier for disease screen testing and vaccinations (usually 72 years) was carried as was a remit on maintaining the national superannuation qualifying age. A remit preventing late-night discharge for elderly from hospital was also passed.
External speakers added to our knowledge. John Collyns, CEO Retirement Villages Association, was questioned about the costs of retirement villages and the retainers when a person leaves the village.
Helen Petousis-Harris, Associate Professor in the Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care and Director of the Vaccine Datalink and Research Group, has become an important voice for us since COVID-19. Helen’s main research areas are vaccine safety and vaccine effectiveness.
She is co-leading the Global Vaccine Data Network, a multinational consortium dedicated to collaboration in vaccine safety studies. As a vaccinologist she explained the processes for developing vaccines and what we can expect from the COVID-19 vaccine.
The CEO of Pulse Energy, the energy company that supplies power for Grey Power Electricity, gave an overview of the electricity scheme. This year the Wellington Central Association has had a number of telephone calls from people who have been informed that their discount will discontinue as they are not financial members of Grey Power. A person becomes a financial member of Grey Power Federation when the $5 capitation fee is paid by the Association to the Federation. The constitution does not allow for membership of an Association only. So, for members who purchase electricity services through Grey Power it is important to pay your annual Grey Power subscription by 15 March so that you don’t receive a notice informing you that your electricity discount will be discontinued.
Towards the end of the conference the President allowed one Association to raise two ‘very urgent matters’ related to Three Waters, including privatisation of water. Without any time to consider their proposed motions in advance it was impossible for delegates to have a reasonable and informed discussion on such important issues. This raised the question of whether such a complex matter should be raised in general business with the purpose of developing a Grey Power position on the subject and providing information for a submission on the subject.
Not everything goes to plan, but we wise Grey Power members can cope with most eventualities.
Our public meeting with the Hon Grant Robertson and Hon Ayesha Verrall was well attended and reported on elsewhere in the newsletter.
David Cuthbert, Deputy Chair, and I attended the Federation AGM mid-July in Nelson, and that meeting is reported on elsewhere in the newsletter.
Your Committee was preparing for the meeting with our Federation President Jan Pentecost when we moved into Level 4 lockdown. Unfortunately, the meeting had to be cancelled at short notice and we apologise for that. We hope to reschedule at a later date.
Our President Jan was to speak at the Zone 4 meeting on 26 August. However, that meeting has been rescheduled for 7 October.
We trust that our next public meeting with Nicola Willis MP will go ahead, without disruption, at 2pm on 14 October at the Tararua Tramping Club in Moncrief Street, Mt Victoria.
We have had a number of members calling because their membership had lapsed and they were about to lose the discount on their electricity. This is a reminder to pay membership fees by 31 March if you are a client of Grey Power Electricity.
Our membership is in good heart, but we encourage you to bring friends to meetings and suggest they become members of the Association.
Let’s hope the rest of the year runs more smoothly than the past few weeks.
Wellington Central Grey Power Association
Committee members needed
We need more people on our Grey Power Wellington Central committee and we especially need a treasurer. If you can help or want to discuss what it involves, please ring 045956255 and leave a message.
Staying safe while driving
Staying Safe is a classroom-based refresher workshop for senior road users. The workshop aims to maintain and improve safe driving practices and increase knowledge of other transport options available to help senior road users remain safely mobile. Courses are planned on several dates and different locations around the region.
20 September, 2021, 10am in Brooklyn
7 October 2021, 11am in Island Bay
8 October 2021, 10am in Te Aro
Please call 04 499 6648 for more information and to register.
Improving your strength and balance
Steady As You Go is designed to improve strength and balance and help prevent a fall. The classes improve balance and leg strength, flexibility, general fitness and wellbeing, and are a great way to meet new people. Classes consist of a combination of sitting, standing and walking exercises, and take around an hour. They’ve also set up Youtube videos: see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhaZzMpgzvY
www.acwellington.org.nz/saygoexercise/ or 04 499 6646
Rates rebates scheme
You could get up to $665 off your rates bill. The rates rebate is means-tested.
Each application is judged against criteria set by the Government – you still may qualify for a rebate with a higher income figure if you have dependents, or if your rates are high.
Pacific Rim childhoods
The University of Otago is doing a research study on Pacific Rim Childhoods: what makes cities good for children? Research Assistant Yvette Buttery needs to recruit Wellington families of three generations (at least one child over six years old, at least one parent and at least one grandparent) who have lived in the same neighbourhood for most of their lives. If you would like to assist please contact Yvette by calling 022 083 4096 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Seniorline helps you find your way in the health system
Seniorline is a national information service to help older people and their whanau navigate the health system. It is funded by all 20 District Health Boards in New Zealand. Seniorline provides information to assist older people to make decisions about staying at home, support for carers and residential care. If you can’t find the information you are looking for on this site, you can call Seniorline on 0800 725 463. For more information: https://www.seniorline.org.nz/
Get your toilet card
Finding a toilet when out and about can be a challenge for people with bladder or bowel problems. It could even discourage some people from going out altogether.
Continence New Zealand provide a toilet card that clearly states that the holder has a medical condition and needs to use a toilet quickly. Most places you visit will be willing to help you.
https://www.continence.org.nz/toiletcard/ or phone 0800 650 659
The future of retirement
“We are at the early stages of a long, difficult transition toward a different vision of the elder years, less a model of disengagement from work and neighborhood to one of continuing engagement in work and community.” – Chris Farrell, Senior Economics Contributor, Marketplace
The year is 2038. I am in my eighties reflecting back on a keynote address I gave a number of times 20 years previous. At that time I was predicting the end of retirement as it had evolved during the 20th century. I was challenged by people then in their thirties and forties who said: “What, are you telling me I am going to have to work until I drop?” Well, that was not quite what I was saying.
So what was I saying? Let’s go back to 2018.
The demographers were plotting the impact of the boomer bulge as people born between 1945 and 1964 moved through into their sixties and beyond. The 65 plus population was projected to grow by around 77 percent, from 700,000 in 2016 to 1.24 million by 2031.
The economists were discussing the dependency ratio and the affordability of state-funded pension schemes. Raising the so-called retirement age (the age of entitlement) in line with longer life spans was advocated but was politically unacceptable. Interestingly, every other Western economy had already started lifting the age of entitlement.
The popular press continued to use such phrases as the silver tsunami, the silver surge and the burden of an ageing population. Younger journalists talked about old people as anyone over 65. To cap it off, an accident involving two people aged 67 was headlined as “Elderly Couple Seriously Injured”.
But has the surge in the number of people over 65, coupled with increased life expectancy, simply meant more retirees and older people living longer?
A silent revolution has been taking place. The boomers have continued to do what they had always done; challenging the norms and transforming each life stage as they reached it. Here we are in 2038, the oldest boomer is 93 and the youngest in their seventies. Guess what? Ideas about what it means to age are still being challenged.
The average life expectancy in 1950 was approximately 70. By 2000 it was around 80. For someone born today (2018) it will be well over 90.
Alexander Kalache, the President of the International Longevity Centre, puts it succinctly: “The 20th century gave us the gift of longevity – but for what? The longevity revolution forces us to abandon existing notions of old age and retirement. These old social constructs are quite simply unsustainable in the face of an additional 30 years of life.”
We often think of life as a series of sequential stages that follow just as day follows night: around 20 years of education and training, 40 years of work and family, and then the dreamed of golden years. The challenge we now face is that the 10–15 years we dreamed of post-work is potentially 25–30 years.
Influential British historian Peter Laslett in the 1980s talked about the emergence of a “third age”. He described it as a new stage between the end of mid-career and parenting duties and the beginning of dependant old age.
Shakespeare back in 16th century Britain talked about the seven ages of man in his play As You Like It. As early as around 600 BC an Athenian statesman, Solon, divided life into ten periods of seven years each.
The latest incarnation of linear thinking has come from the Commission for Financial Capability. They have further divided the “third age” into a Discovery phase (65–74) followed by Endeavour (75–84) and then the Reflection stage (85+). All of this suggests we are programmed to follow predetermined paths throughout life. But is this the way people are living life?
The answer is definitely no!
Life is more complicated than simply adding up the number of birthdays we have had, creating a set of categories and then conforming to a set of expectations passed down as to how we should behave at different ages and stages. In fact, chronological age is now recognised as the least reliable measure.
American gerontologist and writer Ken Dytchwald argues that rather than seeing life as a series of linear and sequential stages, we will increasingly be mixing it up. Why have education just at the front end and defer leisure until we retire?
Margaret Mead once whimsically said, “It is utterly false and cruelly arbitrary to put all the play into childhood, all the work into middle age, and all the regrets into old age.” Why not a gap year in your forties, why not a degree in your fifties or sixties, why not retraining for an encore career in your fifties or going into business for the first time in your sixties?
Looking out 20 years, people in their sixties will not be talking about the previously dreamed of destination – retirement. Rather, they will be talking about how they want to live the next stage in their lives, what contribution they want to be making, how they can continue to make a difference and how they will support themselves financially. This is not the so-called selfish generation but a generation that cares deeply about the environment, their mokopuna, and making a difference for society.
They will be mixing it up, continuing to work but with greater flexibility, and moving between paid and voluntary work and leisure. Increasing numbers will be pursuing encore careers. Older people will have the same funded access to tertiary education to upskill and retrain as younger people. People over 60 will be setting up businesses for the first time and leading start-ups that are creating innovative products and services. Business development grants and seed funding will be available to them.
Is this the future? Yes, but it is the reality now. People are already choosing the age at which they move to the next stage in their lives or alter the nature of their working life. But are they calling it retirement?
The point at which we exit paid work will have little to do with the age of entitlement to an age pension. For a growing number the intention is to never retire in the traditional sense.
This quote from a person in their late sixties may well capture the essence of positive ageing: “Guess what I want to be as I age? I want to be myself … and that may include working.”
American researcher Gail Sheehy observed that the word “retire” has become synonymous with words such as discard, dismiss, resign, retreat, seclude oneself, be unsociable, go to bed. She, like many others, is suggesting we should retire the word “retire” and replace it with a word that is much more active. She suggests “redirect” – a time in your life when you redirect your energies, talents and time.
I am not sure what the new “R” word will be. Do we in fact need one or is it simply about being who we want to be and ageing positively?
Geoff Pearman is the Managing Director of Partners in Change, a Trans-Tasman consulting business that specialises in the field of age and work. He is a consultant, facilitator, author and commentator on age and work.
From Grey Power Morrinsville