Older citizens left out of the loop

Last updated 05:00 02/02/2013

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Growing old can be frustrating: We're sure many of our more mature readers will concur with that.

Many of the staff at the Taranaki Daily News are often reminded of the body's limitations when editor Roy Pilott gives them the latest update on his dodgy knees and his fading pace on the football field.

We're sure Roy and our readers would empathise with mature British singer Morrissey's lament to Jesus, "why did you stick me in self-deprecating bones and skin - do you hate me?"

That physical decline, despite our spirited struggle against it, is a part of life. As is the mental diminishing that often accompanies it.

But it appears it is not just Morrissey's spiritual inspiration that is deserting the ageing flock as they head for more retiring pastures.

Increasingly, our elderly (not including Roy, who is still far too young to qualify) are being left to deal with not only the physical and mental undermining of advancing years but also the marginalisation and isolation of rapid technological change and indifferent market forces.

The latest slight against our superannuitants was news this week that NZ Post is considering dramatic cuts to its mail delivery service. Some of our younger readers may raise an eyebrow of inquiry at that one. To them, mail arrives on their glowing oblong shrines in the form of texts and emails, or through Facebook posts and tweets. And that's part of the problem. A growing number of people think letters are only 26 little fellas that make up the alphabet and that letterboxes are anachronistic receptacles for junk mail and the odd annoying bill.

It's only the elderly and the luddites who send letters these days, which doesn't make for a great business model for NZ Post.

The company has the numbers on its side. The surge in internet use in New Zealand (86 per cent of New Zealanders have a computer or access to the net) has come at the expense of letters and mail volumes. But there remains a large number of older citizens who do not have such access and who depend on a regular, reliable mail service for contact with family, friends, and the outside world in general.

Many of them still write letters to the editor. Many of those same people have long relied on Teletext as well, not only because of the captions for the hearing-impaired but also the news updates; that too is to go, its imminent passing lamented by many.

On top of that, so many competitions and business interactions exclude anyone who doesn't have a mobile phone or email address.

That means that many older citizens are increasingly being excluded from the dialogue that is the banter and barter of society, left in a long-forgotten layby on the information super-highway.

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Worse still, they are being told their input is not wanted or valued.

And society will be the poorer for it.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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