Taupo has always been a popular place to retire and with our ageing population, the need to look after older people in the region is more important than ever.
Age Concern Taupo has this group’s best interests at heart and has spent decades working to connect people socially and with any health or support services they might need.
"The population of older people in Taupo is steadily rising," explains Age Concern's local Team Leader Nikki Halford. "Currently 17.2% of our population is aged 65 and older and that figure is projected to jump to 29.8% by 2033."
Part of the reason is the town’s central location makes it easy to travel around the North Island, and Taupo’s infrastructure is well-established to cater for an annual influx of summer visitors. “It’s a small town feel but you've still got everything you need. And it's beautiful. You know, there's lots to do here recreationally as well so it’s popular on a number of levels.”
The charitable organisation provides free advice, information and advocacy services for older residents throughout Taupo and South Waikato. “Information is power,” Nikki says. “We have a great field worker who will go into people’s homes and work through whatever issues they’ve got.”
Addressing the problem of social isolation and loneliness is a big focus for Age Concern at both a local and national level.
“We run lots of social activities – we have morning teas and friendship groups every fortnight and then we also have a weekly social connection group where people can come and play cards or knit together and do all that kind of stuff. It’s all about trying to get people out of their homes.”
Age Concern Taupo also runs an accredited visiting service where they match volunteers with people who are socially isolated and for a variety of reasons don't, or can't, get out very often. Volunteers will instead pay them home visits and kept in touch throughout lockdown via regular phone calls.
A falls prevention exercise programme and a driving programme in Taupo are among other services on offer.
“We are just about to launch the driving programme which is funded by the Ministry of Health. It’s about staying safe on the roads as an older driver and also giving people some space and time to think about what life might be like after a car, because a lot of our older people will either choose to stop driving or lose their licenses when they re-sit their tests. It’s just about preparing people for what life will look like and what their options are.”
Age Concern Taupo also facilitates a Total Mobility Scheme which provides significant discounts on taxis for those who are unable to drive.
BayTrust has granted Age Concern Taupo $10,000 to help cover their operational costs in 2020 – money which Nikki is extremely thankful for.
It will help page staff wages and mundane bills such as electricity and petrol costs. “We have a van that will go and collect people who can’t get to our social groups due to a lack of transport or inability to afford a taxi. These are real costs which we must raise by applying to funding bodies for support. BayTrust has been fantastic to us for a long period of time and this is a really significant grant.”
Later this year a ‘Living Well Senior Expo’ will be staged at the Great Lakes Centre on November 19 to showcase all the fantastic services on offer for older Taupo residents, and new courses are in the pipeline to help improve digital literacy, Nikki says.
"During lockdown, the response to many problems was 'go online and order your groceries' or 'go online and do your banking' and all that kind of stuff. So that's a real focus for Age Concern nationally now - esponding to wht we've learned through lockdown and providing that extra support whee needed."