Invercargill often a fatal move

HANNAH MCLEOD
Last updated 05:00 27/06/2014

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Elderly Stewart Islanders forced to retire in Invercargill often die soon after the move, Southland District councillor Bruce Ford says.

Ford has battled to establish a community housing development on the island for years in an effort to keep retirees on the island.

"They end up going to Invercargill ... and they turn their toes up," he said.

Sometimes they went to Invercargill for treatment if they became unwell or had an injury, but were unable to return to the family home, so were forced to stay on the mainland, he said. "They don't last long."

Those who were moved off the island became dislocated from their way of life, removed from their community and friends and family, he said.

"They don't go off easily."

About 400 people live on the island, and about a quarter of them were over 60, Ford said.

The project would not be a fulltime care facility, but an option for people who were still self-sufficient but unable to financially or physically maintain their large family homes or properties.

"It would encourage growth on the island, too. As they vacate their three-bedroom homes, younger families could move in," Ford said.

There was land available that would be perfect for the project, which he hoped would include building about 10 one or two-bedroom cottages.

The land was flat, in the middle of Oban, and next to the district nurse's office, he said.

Elderly people on the island had responded positively to the proposal.

"We could house a half dozen people tomorrow; they're pretty much lined up," Ford said.

This week a meeting of the Venture Southland directorate approved $15,000 from its investigations and assessment fund to engage with a property group to undertake the project.

Group manager of tourism, events and community Rex Capil told the directorate the money would fund a study to investigate different types of operational and ownership structures for community housing developments, and assess the need for community housing on the island and the cost.

"It will provide the community with information [including] how much they need to raise and where to get money from," he said.

While the project was still in the early stages, it was obvious there were benefits to keeping elderly on the island.

"They play a special part in the island community."

Taking away the institutional knowledge of the older generation could be crippling to a community, he said.

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- The Southland Times

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