several eye conditions in the developmental years. SIMA LAL, OPTOMETRIST AUCKLAND
FEEL THE TECHNO FEAR
Margo White’s “Social Studies” column ( All Ears, August), about people’s phones (or the apps on their phones and other devices) listening to them in order to sell them things, was spooky. A recent mishap in the US will disturb her even more.
In May, an American woman discovered her Alexa speaker had recorded and sent a private conversation with her husband to one of his employees. According to the company Amazon, which made the device, the speaker managed to interpret a discussion about hardwood floors as a series of four commands to send the conversation to a phone number in Seattle. The startled recipient gallantly phoned the boss, and told him to unplug his Alexa devices, “Right now... You’re being hacked!”
But the couple wasn’t being hacked – just misunderstood by a robot with the power, not only to record a conversation, but also to send it to a virtual stranger. What a magnificent soapopera plot device! GORDON WILSON WELLINGTON
I felt compelled to write in after reading Hannah Brown’s latest Sense of an Ending column (August). It seems strange to look forward to reading about someone’s expected demise, but these pieces really are gems.
I feel sad reading them (especially when I read that the person has since died) but they always make me determined to live my life to the fullest and take away something positive, too. There are always snippets of wisdom from the people interviewed. These wonderfully crafted, personal stories really do justice to the people and their journeys. Keep up the great work with these fascinating insights into our community. C. CONNELL AUCKLAND
Joanna Wane’s Diary of a Divided Land (August) reminded me of a trip I made to Israel in 1970. It was a mixture of religious pilgrimage, business trip and annual holiday. Then, one could walk along the road from Bethlehem to Jerusalem without any problem; take a boat across the Sea of Galilee to Ein Gev and Degania, both famous kibbutz, then head back to Tiberias. You could wander around Old and New Jerusalem and over the Mount of Olives.
When I went to Israel, I knew from history what the Jews had suffered and had sympathy for the future they wanted. I’d seen the film Exodus and been swayed by the struggle to establish the state of Israel. (I remember my father saying the worst memory he had of his 10 years with the Royal Navy over the war period was enforcing the embargo against Jewish refugees trying to get to Israel.) However, by the time I left the country, my sympathies had swayed towards the Palestinians. I have not seen much to change my mind since.
Part of the problem, it seems to me, is that criticising Israel gets mixed up with anti- Semitic attacks against the Jews and political correctness. From what I’ve read from reputable sources, I understand only about half of Israelis actively practise their Jewish faith. The rest are secular Jews who don’t attend synagogue, just as most Western Christians don’t go to church. However, that is not to deny them the right to a safe “homeland”.
Unfortunately, when David Ben- Gurion set up the state of Israel, he did not set a minimum voting percentage for seats in the Knesset, dismissing the idea of ultra- Orthodox Jews voting. Now, they and their other rightwing friends, believing the country is given to them by God, are one of the biggest stumbling blocks to a settlement [with the Palestinians].
“I am sure there are many Palestinians who would be willing to live in a mixed Israeli/ Palestinian federal state if they had homes, jobs, education opportunities and safety.” DAVID H. B. SPEARY
I know most Kiwis don’t have much knowledge of the Bible and Old Testament but, if they looked it up, they would see that the Jews conquered Palestine in a most bloody way (Numbers 31 and the Book of Joshua). It seems “ethnic cleansing” is not a recent phenomenon.
While the country’s future is held to ransom by a small group of fundamentalist Jewish Israelis who believe God gave them the land 3000 years ago, peace for the whole region is in jeopardy. As your article shows, there are many Israelis who would prefer to live co- operatively and in harmony. I’m sure there are many Palestinian refugees who would be willing to live in a mixed Israeli/palestinian federal state if they had homes, jobs, education opportunities and safety. Unfortunately, there are fanatics on both sides. DAVID H. B. SPEARY AUCKLAND
NOT SO HAPPY
I agree with your recent article on retirement villages; they are indeed big business. However, in the absence of government-led options for alternatives, these commercial ghettos have taken hold ( Happy Ever After?, July).
In New Zealand, most of the long-term care for the elderly – be it in rest homes, continuing care hospitals or retirement villages – are operated by for-profit companies, following the demise of the ecumenical and not-for-profit owneroperators who struggled to supply the quality of care, based on the money that government subsidies provided. We now have commercialled big business dictating and profiting from the older populations of New Zealand, and many of these larger commercial companies are based off-shore.
In the absence, then, of government policy that provides alternatives to institutionalised care, we elderly are faced with the prospect of having to uproot our lives, down-size our possessions and take ourselves off to some sort of institutionalised care. If it’s a retirement village, we also have to accept the erosion of our assets. That we tolerate this situation is in itself a sad state of affairs and only goes to reinforce the passiveness and dependency that inhabits our old age.
There are other options available that the Ministry of Health should be exploring, such as smaller group homes; initiatives that provide support and deal to isolation and loneliness; increased rehabilitation care for the elderly in the community; enabling either families to become more involved in their relatives’ care, and/ or providing increased community-based services that enable an older person to stay longer in their own home.
While some people associated with these retirement villages may report their residents are happy and satisfied, in the absence of other options and with the fear of disability, loneliness and isolation, the exposure to institutionalised commercialism of our elderly will continue. ANTHEA PENNY AKAROA
Our company specialises in developing and managing retirement villages and I found the article Happy Ever After? very interesting. Our take on the main players’ retirement village model is that it is not right, it’s not fair and we can change it.
You are quite right most residents in retirement villages are happy with their choice. But that’s often because in their family home they felt anxious about looking after the property, and they were lonely – often having lost a partner. Sometimes one partner is sick and they are planning for the future or they’re starting to get worried about safety and security. Often the residents feel they have little choice. The social advantages of a retirement village are huge.
Despite those advantages, only around 12.4% of New Zealanders over 75 live in retirement villages. This percentage is slowly creeping up, but our opinion is that the current financial model – “milking the elderly for profit”, as you so succinctly put it – is the reason this percentage
is low. The families and the parents simply don’t want to lose so much of their hard-won equity. We, and some others in the market, do offer an alternative. Our model is that our fee is 12.5% of the sales price of the unit. This means the resident gets the benefit of the capital gain, which generally would cover the fee. Particularly in a period of rising house prices, as we have been experiencing for the last decade, under our model a resident could get twice the capital returned than under the traditional retirement village model.
The Retirement Villages Association of New Zealand executive director says there are some financial advantages to that model, “…62% of residents released more than $100,000 of their capital”. Given the significant loss of capital under their model, that is hard to take seriously. They certainly “release” an awful lot more of their capital to the operators.
Another of our concerns is this model essentially traps the elderly in a village. For most residents, they simply can’t afford to move even if they chose to.
Your article is timely as we see the surge in retirement villages offered by the main players. Our business is small by comparison, but our aim is to expand our village numbers from the four we currently have. We want to do this because we believe there should be better retirement options for New Zealanders.
Maybe, long-term, we can grow to a point where we can force some change to that existing set-up. We certainly believe the current retirement village model is not fair. ANDREW DALLAS DIRECTOR, KARAKA PINES VILLAGES
THE BANK OF WISE INVESTMENT?
Here’s a great way to help your kids get into their first house: don’t loan them money!
Reading the sad story of “Helen Fleming” in Open for Business! The Bank of Mum and Dad (July) should be a good wake-up call to the baby boomers who are being asked to help fund house purchases. My strong recommendation is: “People, put your wallets back in your pockets.”
Instead, invest in rental property and pass it on to your kids through a trust. That way they aren’t sitting on a “dead money” asset by living in the house your cash went into, and they learn the value of money and the benefit of investment.
Watching the compounding effect of rising capital value and being able to manage an asset in a structured way, the kids will quickly work out that they are fools if they seek money from Bomad [the Bank of Mum and Dad] to own a house they will live in. By all means set up the trust so they can later borrow against the appreciating asset – if they really need to.
The side benefit: there will be a certain percentage of kids who ask for the money with no intention of paying it back. Those kids will never buy into this kind of relationship with money – and are best left to learn their own hard life lessons. MARK BAKER AUCKLAND
I agree with writer Aaron Smale regarding a combined stateand church-based Royal Commission of Inquiry ( Is the State a Psychopath?, July). I would not want to see any watering down of the inquiry – but people abused in faithbased “care” will never get their own Royal Commission. Mothers have had to endure the dismissal [by former Justice Minister Amy Adams] of their request for an inquiry [into past adoption practices] and it seems we have been forgotten. The injustice of having our babies abducted and concealed, then lost to us, is obviously not important.
I personally know five people who have been sucked into this cult [Providence/ Jms/christian Gospel Mission] in Auckland, and only three got out ( The Cult Next Door, June). I have no idea what happened to the other two, or where they are now. Thanks, North & South, for raising awareness about this.
So many children these days see their parents in comfortable positions with a few nice things and don’t question the sacrifice and saving that has gone into this ( The Bank of Mum and Dad, July). Before you loan money to your children, do the maths. Say you have three children and they all ask for $5000. Can you really afford it? And how hard will it be to ask for it back if you really need it? Home ownership is not a right.
“I personally know five people who have been sucked into this cult.”
Above: A photograph of a street craft fair in Jaffa, one of Israel’s mixed neighbourhoods (from Joanna Wane’s Diaryof a Divided Land, August). The words on the boy’s T-shirt, written in both Arabic and Hebrew, read “I speak Arabic”– part of an initiative to celebrate bilingual communities and give greater visibility to the Arab language.