Calls to care for neigh­bours

The Tribune (NZ) - - FRONT PAGE - RICHARD MAYS

The lonely death last week of a Palmer­ston North pen­sioner has re­newed calls to strengthen com­mu­nity ties and for peo­ple to take more re­spon­si­bil­ity for one an­other.

Manawatu Out­reach of Age Con­cern’s Robyn Baker ex­tended the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s con­do­lences to the fam­ily, friends and neigh­bours of the woman whose body was found by po­lice in her home last Wed­nes­day.

The woman’s ab­sence had been no­ticed by a neigh­bour who phoned and left a mes­sage with Age Con­cern and then called po­lice.

Baker said she called the neigh­bour back, and spent time re­as­sur­ing her that the com­mu­nity does care for its older peo­ple.

‘‘I dis­cussed ways of keep­ing safe and com­mended her on con­tact­ing emer­gency ser­vices.’’

She re­minded peo­ple that Age Con­cern was not a cri­sis ser­vice, and worked with lim­ited re­sources.

‘‘This is not just one per­son’s or ser­vice’s prob­lem – it be­longs to the com­mu­nity. It can be a choice to live alone, how­ever we have 87,000 peo­ple here in Palmer­ston North and the re­al­ity is we are never alone as we all have neigh­bours.’’

For­mer na­tional pres­i­dent of Grey Power Don Robert­son said keep­ing an eye on elderly neigh­bours was a bal­ance be­tween re­spect­ing their pri­vacy and mak­ing sure they were OK. So­cial iso­la­tion could be a ma­jor prob­lem for older peo­ple, lead­ing to lone­li­ness and de­pres­sion.

Baker asked peo­ple to reach out and get to know the peo­ple who live around them. ‘‘I’ve said as it takes a com­mu­nity to raise a child it also takes a com­mu­nity to care for its elderly. So, go next door, smile and in­tro­duce your­self, de­velop your own street Neigh­bour­hood Watch safety plan.’’

Age Con­cern op­er­ates an ac­cred­ited vis­it­ing ser­vice that matches an older per­son with a reg­u­larly vis­it­ing vol­un­teer for com­pany and con­ver­sa­tion, and can de­ploy so­cial work­ers in cases of ne­glect and abuse.

Baker is also chair of Age Friendly City, a com­mu­nity group es­tab­lished last year fol­low­ing a sim­i­lar dy­ing-alone in­ci­dent, with a fo­cus on com­mu­nity mem­bers tak­ing greater re­spon­si­bil­ity for each other and help­ing strengthen so­cial con­nec­tions.

The next Age Friendly City fo­rum takes place on Au­gust 18.

PHOTO: MUR­RAY WIL­SON/FAIR­FAX NZ

Elsie Down­ing, pres­i­dent of Palmer­ston North Se­nior Cit­i­zens with some of the in­door bowl­ing club mem­bers, from left, Keith Bell­house, Tony Cull, Mick Eich­ler, Brian Robin­son and Rex Old­field, says the or­gan­i­sa­tion helps keep older peo­ple con­nected by pro­vid­ing ac­tiv­i­ties and op­por­tu­ni­ties for so­cial get-to­geth­ers such as cards, Scrab­ble and dances.

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