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Call for attention to "Māori positive ageing" as numbers set to climb

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Monday, 29 October 2018

Dr Reremoana Theodore image
National Centre for Lifecourse Research Co-Director, Dr Reremoana Theodore.

There is a call for attention to focus on "Māori positive ageing" as the number of older Māori is set to double over a short period with higher rates of disability and dependence than the general population.

How to support the growing number of older Māori is the focus of a new editorial "Māori Positive Ageing" by University of Otago National Centre for Lifecourse Research Co-Director Dr Reremoana Theodore and other Māori health leaders, published in the most recent issue of the New Zealand Medical Journal.

In the next 20 years, the number of Māori aged 65-plus is expected to more than double from approximately 48,500 to 126,000 people. Māori currently make up 6 per cent of those aged 65-plus, but this is projected to increase to 10 per cent of people in this age group.

The editorial describes how on average, Māori not only have fewer years of good health, but shorter lives than non-Māori. The authors note that these health disparities result from differences over time in the access to factors like education, employment opportunities, and affordable and quality housing.

Dr Theodore says Māori positive ageing is a lifelong process that begins well before Māori reach older age.

“That Māori are growing as a proportion of those aged 65-plus, and Māori have higher rates of disability and dependency relative to the general population warrants particular attention,” Dr Theodore says.

"Early and ongoing programmes, by Māori for Māori, that prevent disabilities and lengthen life, are crucial. Importantly, the issues that we describe in our editorial are similar to those raised in the report published last week - 'Kaumātuatanga: The needs and wellbeing of older Maori' that was commissioned by Te Pou Matakana and undertaken by Wai-Research."

Lead author Dr Will Edwards, Director of Taumata Associates, says the current development of a new national Positive Ageing Strategy is important for Māori because the previous strategy released in 2001 did not capture Māori perspectives on ageing well.

"Ageing for Māori should be considered within the context of community, including whānau, hapū (subtribe) and iwi (tribe). Being Māori and engaging with te ao Māori (the Māori world) are elements of positive ageing that are culturally based and distinctive for Māori," Dr Edwards says.

"Importantly, whānau ora and ageing well for Māori are interconnected because regular positive interactions and quality relationships support all members of the whānau from the mokopuna (grandchildren) all the way up to the kaumātua (older people)."

Co-author, Mrs Rangimahora Reddy is the Chief Executive Officer of Rauawaawa Kaumātua Charitable Trust in Hamilton. The trust provides health, social and education services to more than 600 kaumātua. Culturally appropriate services and respectful relationships between service providers and older Māori and their whānau are important, she says.

"We know that providing culturally responsive activities and services can help to enhance wellbeing, connectedness and quality of life for our kaumātua."

Mrs Reddy notes these issues will be the topic of discussions at next month’s National Kaumātua Service Providers Conference in New Plymouth that is being supported by the Ageing Well National Science Challenge. The conference will bring together leading experts on Māori ageing including kaumātua, researchers and service professionals.

“As Māori, we place a high value on our kaumātua who play critical roles within our whānau and communities including upholding Māori culture and the passing down of knowledge to our future generations.”

For more information, contact:

Matiu Workman
Communications Adviser (Māori)
University of Otago
Tel +64 3 479 9139
Mob +64 21 279 9139
Email matiu.workman@otago.ac.nz

Publication details:
Māori positive ageing
Will Edwards, Reremoana Theodore, Mihi Ratima, Rangimahora Reddy.
New Zealand Medical Journal.

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