The annual International Day of Older Persons was established by the United Nations in 1990 to recognise older people as mentors, volunteers, leaders and the foundation of families and communities.
The theme of the 2020 commemoration is “Pandemics: Do They Change How We Address Age and Ageing?”
We know that COVID-19 puts seniors at greater risk. People who are more vulnerable during a pandemic - seniors, people who are isolated, and those who can’t access information and resources - suffer more in emergencies. People who rely on public transport or who have underlying health conditions, parents with young families, people with existing disabilities, underlying health conditions and care needs, and those in communities already experiencing health inequalities - for instance Māori and Pacific communities - have and will be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
Essentially, if we design for seniors, we design for everybody. Age-friendly societies benefit all of us. After the nationwide level four lockdown, the Access Alliance conducted a survey shortly. We found that 34% of respondents were over 65 years of age. Older New Zealanders continue to make a significant contribution to the Access Alliance’s campaign.
Chrissie Cowan, Access Alliance Chair, agrees,
“As we navigate the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Access Alliance firmly believes that accessibility legislation will be the game changer, not only for disabled people, seniors, whānau and other people living in Aotearoa New Zealand with access needs, but for Aotearoa New Zealand as a whole.”
Ms. Cowan asserts,
“We are committed to leaving no one behind and to ensuring that the first step towards our vision of an accessible Aotearoa New Zealand for disabled people and all people with access needs is realised through the introduction of the Accessible Aotearoa Bill to Parliament in 2021.”
The Access Alliance is proud to have support from key organisations such as Age Concern, Alzheimers New Zealand, Arthritis New Zealand, Carers New Zealand, Dementia New Zealand, Grey Power and the NZ Carers Alliance.
The Access Alliance is a movement comprised of ten founding member organisations from the disability sector, working with a range of supporting organisations, business champions, and nearly 7000 individual supporters, representing and advocating for people with access needs. Collectively the Alliance represents disabled people, seniors, carers of young children, the temporarily injured, migrants and people for whom English is a second language.
By 2040, 1.2 million Kiwis will be aged 65 and older. We are preparing for a future quite different to the one we pictured a year ago, before the COVID-19 pandemic. We need to revise our expectations and our way of thinking to better cater to the needs of older and ageing people.
We’re right behind organisations in the senior sector who are advocating to remove negative stereotypes of ageing, and changing attitudes towards life after 65. No matter what age and stage, we need to treat people with dignity and respect.