Fo­cused on sup­port­ing el­derly

Central Otago Mirror - - CEN­TRAL NEWS - By MARY-JO TO­HILL

Alexan­dra is about as far as you can get from a Cana­dian Na­tive In­dian re­serve and the slums of Jakarta in In­done­sia. To Cen­tral Otago Age Con­cern’s new co-or­di­na­tor Grace Dyk­stra, the chal­lenges are the same. It’s about keep­ing peo­ple con­nected with their com­mu­nity, and their com­mu­nity con­nected to them. From Christchurch orig­i­nally, Ms Dyk­stra’s back­ground as a so­cial worker had taken her around the world, be­fore she fi­nally based her­self in Dunedin. But she had al­ways wanted to live and work in Cen­tral Otago. “When the job was ad­ver­tised I saw it as an op­por­tu­nity to come and put down roots.” Re­plac­ing pre­vi­ous co-or­di­na­tor Lysanne Sim, for the last six weeks she has been throw­ing her­self into many ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing Age Con­cern ini­tia­tive Se­nior Chef be­ing in­tro­duced to Cen­tral Otago for the first time on Oc­to­ber 15 at the Alexan­dra Se­nior Cit­i­zens rooms. Funded to run four times a year at var­i­ous cen­tres around New Zealand, the free course was at­tract­ing men over 60 who were sud­denly find­ing that they had to cook for them­selves or for their part­ner. But older women liv­ing on their own were also do­ing the course, to help them scale back to cook­ing and eat­ing for one. Ms Dyk­stra’s new job has not been with­out chal­lenges. She ar­rived in the weeks fol­low­ing the loss of Alexan­dra’s only taxi ser­vice, which had an im­me­di­ate im­pact on the town’s aged non­driv­ing pop­u­la­tion. Otago Age Con­cern chief ex­ec­u­tive Su­san Davidson said it had been ”in­cred­i­bly dis­ap­point­ing” to see the taxi firm close its doors, but hoped an­other busi­ness would see this an in­cen­tive to start a new To­tal Mo­bil­ity Scheme to pro­vide sub­sidised taxi ser­vices. “We un­der­stand that Cen­tral Otago is good on com­mu­nity sup­port and peo­ple do look af­ter each other but maybe it’s timely to be look­ing at a more for­mal trans­port ser­vice as a com­mu­nity ini­tia­tive.” Ms Dyk­stra had also noted that com­mu­nity work­ers and vol­un­teers were very good at in­cor­po­rat­ing the run­ning of er­rands and do­ing drop offs and pick ups into home vis­its to el­derly. How­ever, she stressed “they’re not a taxi”. El­der abuse and ne­glect pre­ven­tion was the hard­est as­pect of her job. Al­though Cen­tral Otago had only re­ceived a hand­ful of re­fer­rals in the 18 months that a co-or­di­na­tor had been ap­pointed, in Age Con­cern’s opin­ion this was still “six too many”. This sort of abuse was usu­ally fi­nan­cial and hap­pened within the fam­ily, but in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties it was hid­den and mostly went un­re­ported, Ms Dyk­stra said. What Ms Dyk­stra is most pas­sion­ate about is sup­port­ing the el­derly to live at home within their com­mu­nity for as long as pos­si­ble, and en­cour­ag­ing them to be part of Age Con­cern’s Ac­cred­ited Vis­it­ing Ser­vice. “It makes you feel wanted when some­one comes to see you, to be able to make them a cuppa, so you can get to the kitchen ta­ble.” She also saw “tak­ing the scary out of age­ing” as a big part of her job.

Photo: MARY-JO TO­HILL/FAIR­FAX NZ

At the helm: Cen­tral Otago Age Con­cern’s new co-or­di­na­tor Grace Dyk­stra out­side Alexan­dra’s soon to be com­pleted com­mu­nity cen­tre in which she will have an of­fice

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.