Ageing Well NetworkProjects
The above photo is of Basil, one of our loved, first members of the group and Kahurangi, his wee friend. Moe mai ra e Basil.
For decades, Wesley Community Action has worked with seniors/kaumātua, particularly more vulnerable older people. The origin of Wesley Community Action was the Wesleyhaven retirement village in Naenae where we first began. We have learnt so much together.
We have learnt about the power of embracing whānau-led and community-led ways of working
We have learnt about the value of diverse, intergenerational communities.
We have learnt about the growing acute limitations in the current care system that significantly lessen the quality of life for too many – for example, relying on professional care services to come in to your homes and do ‘your cares’ and leave again, with limited ability to build caring relationships.
What to do with what we have learnt?
This learning is driving Wesley to innovate new approaches to ageing well, in collaboration with seniors/kaumātua themselves.
In 2017, after making the hard decision to close our rest home and hospital Wesleyhaven, we turned our minds to a new question:
How might we innovate to support older people to work with the community and meet their own needs?
At the end of 2017, we brought together a small group of seniors/kaumātua from the Lower Hutt region to prototype a connection group. This has continued to grow and blossom into the Ageing Well Network.
Whenever we don’t know where to start, we bring people together to ask them the question – what can we do together that we can’t do alone? Ageing Well was no exception.
We had a big wide question about how to age well in community, and needed to have seniors/kaumātua answer that. Because of our bias towards people who are excluded from the mainstream, our aim for the first group was to meet the immediate needs of isolated older people in our community and provide opportunities for them to connect and contribute.
As we worked with the group of 10 people each week, it became clear that there was some gold here. We wanted to be able to include more people in this magic so after 10-weeks of meeting, we held a graduation of the original group, kept them meeting weekly, and started a new 10-week course with a new group of people.
This group kept growing and meeting weekly at a coffee group and sharing their lives with each other (we tried fortnightly but it wasn't enough - they wanted to see each other more often!).
We have done lots of different things together.
- We partnered up with the Hutt Timebank to share the Timebank as a resource we can use and help to identify needs, and skills and to record those and encourage trades.
- We took trips to places people hadn’t been in years – or had never been, and did lots of different activities together.
- We hosted several groups of external researchers or government departments to share the knowledge and experience of the members in external research projects and government consultations.
- We supported lots of the members with tricky issues, and big life transitions.
- We delighted in the group starting to self-organize to meet their own needs, especially phone calls and visiting each other to fight loneliness that too many of the group experienced before.
This mahi comes out of the years of love and care that the past workers and residents of Wesleyhaven built together and from the current residents of Wesley Rātā Village who show generosity, humour and courage looking towards change. Also from the current and past members of the network who have been up for doing things differently in their lives, and Tracey Scott our founding facilitator who brought us all together so beautifully.
What have we learnt?
Too many of our seniors/kaumātua in Aotearoa have slipped out of community without us noticing.
Instead of practicing community they have started to practice loneliness. It is easy to slip into that when you end work, and your family grows up and you have health challenges. But we’re learning that it’s also easy to slip back into community if you have a really supportive place to do that, and someone to encourage you back.
Seniors/kaumātua have so much to contribute to each other and the wider community. Creating spaces for them to come together and make new connections seems to be building some amazing value for the Ageing Well Network members.
In 2022, we will be dedicating some resource to evaluation of Ageing Well so that we can learn more, together, about the magic in this group of people, and what else we need to tautoko in them.
To read more of the origins of Ageing Well – download our 2019 design report here
In the Te Hiko whānau: How is this contributing to growing better economic systems and adding value in our communities?
We know that with New Zealand's ageing population we can’t afford to keep the same models of care for our seniors/kaumātua. Too many seniors/kaumāuta are excluded from being a part of the wider community because they don’t have the resources to take part. We need to explore lots of new responses to this.
Ageing Well is our koha into this challenge. We aim to connect people together so they can support each other to lead good lives as they age in their own homes.