Retirees sought to help families

STACEY KNOTT
Last updated 12:58 04/04/2014

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Volunteering in retirement is a great way to share the elderly's "wealth of knowledge", says Senior Citizens Minister Jo Goodhew.

An array of stalls and speakers were at the Nelson Tasman Positive Aging Expo yesterday, including Goodhew, who is also community and voluntary sector minister.

She told the audience about their importance to society, and how they needed to "stay connected" to society in old age.

She spoke of the need to "create a community where older people are valued".

The elderly accounted for the highest population of volunteers in the country. Goodhew said this benefited the economy and society, with the elderly's "wealth of knowledge".

It also kept the elderly connected to society.

Supergrans co-ordinator Betty Soane was at the expo to recruit retirees to donate their time and knowledge to families in need.

Supergrans is a voluntary mentoring programme run though Nelson's Te Korowai Trust.

The programme matches mentors with young people or families to help with teaching them cooking, budgeting, and gardening skills.

"Older people have time on their hands and they come up with amazing things," Soane said.

She said volunteers would give up about an hour a week to help younger people, especially "young mums who have never been told the basics".

They were at the expo to gather more supergrans. They had seven currently, one of whom had made cookbooks to pass on to the families they mentored.

Supergrans also encouraged and supported the clients to study and provided advocacy for Work and Income meetings.

They would also work to source funding clients may need from organisations like the Fifeshire Foundation, the Salvation Army and also administered a food bank.

Soane said they were looking for "empathetic and community minded" volunteers who would be vetted through police checks.

Goodhew later met with Big Brothers Big Sisters, who were also at the expo recruiting mentors for its charity which aimed to help children aged 6 to 18 take part in new experiences by pairing them with adult "big brothers" and "big sisters" from the community.

Programme director Rachel Rae told the minister they were working to lift the profile of the organisation and get more mentors on its books as there was a wait list of 40 children who needed mentors.

The charity worked to "get in before the child gets into trouble".

They would also try to sign up children from families where older siblings may be known to the police.

As a "non-threatening" agency they would get children who might "fall though the gaps".

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Board chairman Ross Newman said they were at the expo as they believed retirees had enough time to help mentor.

He said they worked hard to match people and mentors did not need to worry about being put with a "ratbag" child, as someone inquired about.

He said they had four people interested from the expo and they tried to correct any perceptions the elderly may have about what was involved with mentoring.

"It's to give them the option to see something different and aspire for something different," Newman said.

Goodwyn told the organisation they were "doing fantastic work and it makes a difference".

- Nelson

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