Within the next 20 years, more than 1.2 million New Zealanders will be aged 65+ with all the looming challenges and opportunities that presents.
The rapidly ageing population is already a reality on the Kāpiti Coast where a group, with the support of the council, has been meeting to explore what an age-friendly community would look like.
For resident Jill Stansfield, who’s currently getting around on crutches after surgery, there are practicalities to consider.
“I have just been to the disabled toilet and the weight of the door, the spring on the door, was such that I had to use my head, in conjunction with my crutches, to get through the doorway.
“That is not accessible for some people and that would be a disaster, I mean it really would.”
She would like Kāpiti to put in place elderly preferred parking, not just disabled parking bays, and think about what’s on offer at shopping centres and in public spaces.
“You’ve got to think about seating; the seat has to be high enough off the floor and it has to have arm rests as well.
“When we’re talking about accessibility to services, then the queuing system needs to have a number system rather than standing there for half an hour.”
Signage is also critical, she says.
“If you’ve got a notice in a building, the font has to be large enough for people with a visual problem to be able to process from a reasonable distance.
“For the new expressway, signage needs to be more diagrammatic than the printed word it can then be understood by everybody, including tourists. You’ve also got to think carefully about the font and what background you use it on because there are quite a high proportion of people who cannot process black on white.”
Ms Stansfield says it’s not just the 50+ who stand to benefit from age-friendly policies.
“I think whatever we think about in terms of improving to make what we loosely call age friendly, when you look at it carefully, it will be all age friendly.
“What about the rugby player who’s stuffed his knee? He’ll be on crutches for a long time, he can use the ramp as well, and the mum with maybe a baby buggy and a couple of toddlers in tow that is by far the best way for them to gain access to a building too.”
With thanks to superseniors.msd.govt.nzno