Taupo’s rapidly aging population is putting a strain on support services for the elderly, with the sector calling out for more workers.
Like many countries, New Zealand is experiencing a boom in our aging population, and the Taupo District is going grey faster than almost any other part of the country. Already, one in six Taupo residents (17 percent) are 65 and older, a number expected to rise to almost one in three (30 percent) within the next 20 years, according to Waikato University.
As the population aged 65 and older continues to grow, Taupo will need more services to cater to older people’s needs and more workers to care for those in that age group.
Enliven support worker Merv Richdale is one example of someone providing support to older people in Taupo with low to high needs, six days a week.
He is part of a team of 20 Enliven support workers, a service of Presbyterian Support Northern, who visit the elderly sometimes several times a day. The team visits about 85 clients weekly and Merv may have as many as 50 visits a week.
Richdale, who joined the Taupo team in May 2014, enjoys his role but says there is a growing need for more staff.
“The Enliven team is great. I am glad that I can do work which helps people. It is hard work, but it is rewarding work. But we need more people with the right experience and the desire to help others.”
The team’s varied roles cover a range of activities from personal care to meal preparation and shopping. They also assist clients who need to transition from hospital back to their own home, and work with physiotherapists to help those in their care rebuild their physical strength.
Richdale says: “We do everything really. Sometimes we just have a chat, go for a walk or take them to do the shopping. Other times we help with meal preparation. We do light housework like changing linen and personal care. Essentially, everything that they can’t do, we do.”
The team visits retirement villages and rest homes such as Summerset by the Lake Retirement Village, Liston Heights Rest Home & Hospital, Wharerangi Rest Home, St John’s Wood Rest Home and Village, and Monte Vista Residential Care, to name a few. They also work with Taupo Hospital.
Thursday is café day. The Enliven Conversation Café provides opportunities for social interaction, activities and outings based on older people’s interests. It helps reduce loneliness and isolation, especially for those who are living alone or don’t have family nearby.
“They get a cup of tea and biscuits and cream cakes,” Richdale says. “They do heaps at the village hall; they play snooker and bowls and they are getting quite competitive. There was one lady with dementia who never played bowls and now she’s a great player. It gives them something to look forward to.”
He says he enjoys getting the elderly out of their homes, interacting with them and getting to know them.
“About five months ago I met Ron and he was ready to die. Now he goes to the café on Thursdays and he wants to go out. He loves bowls. Now you wouldn’t guess he’s 98.”
Richdale describes himself as a caregiver and says the love that you have for your parents and grandparents makes you a caregiver and you can give care to others.
“Both my grandmother and nana spent a lot of time with me and it was important in making me become who I am today. They said to me ‘respect your elders’. If I see someone trying to cross the road, I would cross the road and help them, knowing that they do need help.”