Matua Raḵi August 2016 newsletter | A word from Te Pou

By Robyn Shearer, chief executive, Te Pou o te Whakaaro Nui

My mum recently moved into a retirement village at the age of 83. She is reasonably fit for her age – walks at least twice a day and involves herself in all sorts of activities.

What I notice as every year goes by, is that her mental health and wellbeing is not as good as it once was. Her memory is not as sharp, her focus is less, and daily activities are much more of a struggle. She really pushes herself to get out there and keep active. Many of her friends and wider network are also compromised and have less ability to cope with the challenges of day to day life than her. Many are on multiple medication regimes – most of which they don’t have a good understanding of, and this in turn causes them to be both physically and mentally compromised. Keeping physically and mentally healthy assists in this process but much is beyond the control of the individual and reliance on good services to help navigate these challenges is really important. On top of that if you add alcohol and drug use, the complexity grows. 

Working with older people requires a specialist set of knowledge, skills, values and attitudes. It requires workers to be thinking and working holistically taking into account physical and mental wellbeing. Workers are required to have a good understanding of co-morbidity but also the ability to work alongside someone with a lot of life experience, whose values may be different to one’s own and sometimes with challenging whānau complexities. 

We recently conducted a survey of the disability workforce and predict that in ten years’ time one-third of the people in this workforce will be aged 65 and over. How will we support not only the communities we work with but also our own workforce as we age? 

The Ministry of Health are currently consulting on an older people strategy and there is an opportunity to have your say about the future for our ageing population. I attended a consultation meeting and was struck that much of this work is being run through consensus workshops. We do need to ensure we have a strong evidence base that drives actions based on the needs for ageing people and an ageing workforce. I would encourage the addiction sector to get involved and have a say on this strategy. It is important for our future. It may guide funding and support in many areas we are involved in. 

Te Pou and Matua Raki will have an active role in supporting workforce development in this area. This means we must cross boundaries outside of our sectors – much like what is being done with Supporting parents, healthy children or Equally Well. To find out more and have your say, visit the Ministry of Health website

We would welcome your feedback on how we can contribute to the discussion on older people’s addiction and mental health issues.

Read more about working with older people in the article <Old habits die hard: alcohol and drug use among older people>.

Ngā mihi nui, 



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