New project to help older bay residents

Former Wellington City councillor Liz Thomas has moved back to her home turf in Golden Bay to retire - sort of.

On the days she is not retired, she is running a community action project called Living Well in Golden Bay.

Her mission during the next two years is to investigate accommodation and social fabric issues that do or don't support Golden Bay's ageing population.

"The grant is for a couple of years. The outcome, we hope, will be accepted by the community and put into place."

She is also seeking to understand the makeup of Golden Bay's social networks, with an eye on strengthening them so that more young professionals are available to live in the bay and support its ageing population.

Ms Thomas said young people played an integral part in the positive ageing process in Golden Bay.

One key reason for this was that they provided the social services to support the older generation.

However, young professionals struggled to find homes they could afford in Golden Bay, she said.

"Young people often can't move into jobs in Golden Bay because of lack of affordable accommodation."

The Living Well in Golden Bay project feeds into the Government's positive ageing strategy and is overseen by the Golden Bay Workcentre Trust.

This work follows on from the 2011 research project Ageing in Place, also commissioned by the trust. The research identified accommodation, finances, social networks and health as the main issues affecting people's ability to "age in place", or not, in Golden Bay.

Ms Thomas said it was not possible to predict the directions the project would take, as it would be 100 per cent led by the community.

She said the action plan she was developing would need to be accepted by the community, but also fit in with local and national ageing policies. The New Zealand Positive Ageing Strategy says older people must be highly valued and "recognised as an integral part of families and communities".

She is now out and about in the Golden Bay community, talking with a cross-section of people who have links to the ageing population.

She owns a home in Golden Bay and served on the former Golden Bay County Council.

She said she had spoken to the Golden Bay Community Board, where she was "greeted like an old friend".

"I'm very sorry my old friend Joe Bell wasn't there. I was on his mailing list and watching Golden Bay from afar."

She served as a councillor for the Lambton ward on the Wellington City Council from 1992 to 1995, and has held several local and central government roles. She has also worked for non-governmental organisations, including most recently the Living Streets campaign.

Ms Thomas works on Mondays and Tuesdays at the Golden Bay Workcentre Trust.

The Nelson Mail