Calls to care for neighbours
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.
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.