Welcome from the Director

Professor G David Baxter TD DPhil MBA

Professor David Baxter

Haere mai!

A warm welcome to the website for the National Science Challenge for Ageing Well – Kia eke kairangi ki te taikaumātuatanga.

The Ageing Well National Science Challenge was formally launched on 4th March 2015 by Hon Steven Joyce, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment, and is based at the University of Otago's main campus at Dunedin. It is a national research collaboration which will involve the major New Zealand research groups in ageing research with expertise in public health, Māori health, social science, biomedical science, clinical practice, population and community health, health service provision, and ICT. The Challenge will link this expertise as well as international networks, and will align with the other health and wellbeing Science Challenges, the Centres of Research Excellence with overlapping interests, and key funders such as Health Research Council, to encourage collaboration, and to build and leverage capability and resources.

The Challenge supports research under five interlinking strands of research to address our mission: push back disability thresholds to enable all New Zealanders to reach their full potential through the life course with particular reference to the latter years of life. These strands are focussed on: enabling independence and autonomy / tino rangatiratanga of older individuals and their whānau and families; ensuring a meaningful life through social integration and engagement; recognising at a societal level the value of ongoing contributions of knowledge and experience of older people; reducing disability; and, developing age-friendly environments. These strands will incorporate work to push back the disability threshold by optimizing brain and body health, and social and physical environments for older people.

Our website has been designed to provide visitors with the information on our work within the Challenge: our management group and researchers, our programmes and research activities, and our stakeholders and knowledge exchange partners.

Please take the time to learn more about our Ageing Well Challenge and our research activities: we hope you will find the website useful and informative as we work to develop this Challenge over the coming years.

Professor David Baxter

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Vision and mission

The vision of Ageing Well is to add life to years for all older New Zealanders

This will be achieved by harnessing science to sustain health and wellbeing into the later years of life, in ways that:

  • Allow personal dignity to be preserved into old age by mitigating mental, cognitive, and physical disability
  • Support health, wellbeing and independence for all New Zealanders as they age
  • Recognise the resourcefulness of older people and their on-going social, economic, and cultural contributions to society
  • Enable Ageing Well through mutual respect, support, and reciprocity amongst people of different ages

The mission of Ageing Well is to push back disability thresholds to enable all New Zealanders to reach their full potential through the life course with particular reference to the latter years of life.

This will be achieved through delivery of our programme of research, underpinned by:

  • Creating an environment that encourages collaboration between researchers who specialise in ageing research, so as to develop the innovative strategies needed for realising the potential of the longevity dividend (five interlinking strands of research)
  • Engaging continuously with consumers and stakeholders from the health and disability, voluntary and community services sectors who are at the front line of support for New Zealand’s older people in an increasingly diverse and complex ageing society (the emphasis on co-production of research and an integrated knowledge transfer model)
  • Infusing the research programme with the principles of Vision Mātauranga which seek to transform the burden of poor ageing that falls disproportionately on Māori and give expression to the long and rich tradition of Māori valuing and using older people’s knowledge and wisdom

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10-Year Research Plan

The Ageing Well Challenge aims to add life to years for older New Zealanders by pushing back disability thresholds to enable all New Zealanders to reach their full potential through the life course, with particular reference to the latter years of life.

This will be achieved through a programme of world class research, underpinned by an environment of collaboration, continuous engagement with stakeholders and a programme infused by Vision Mātauranga.

The Challenge has five research strands to direct research outcomes, which have been co-created between stakeholders and researchers. The strands are:

  • Enabling independence and autonomy / rangatiratanga of older individuals and their whānau and families
  • Ensuring a meaningful life through social integration and engagement
  • Recognising at a societal level the value of ongoing contributions of knowledge and experience of older people
  • Reducing disability
  • Developing age-friendly environments.

These strands have directed development of the initial portfolio of ten research projects encompassing research on maintaining social integration, including staying in work, on housing tenure and independence, dying well, healthcare needs of retirement village resident, reducing impacts of polypharmacy, preventing stroke and cardiovascular disease through coaching and reducing stroke impacts through new technology.

The Challenge will utilise a Knowledge Exchange Transfer framework which is based on the principles of co-creation and knowledge exchange between researchers and knowledge users. There is little more critical to the success of the Challenge than involving the organisations and individuals who will implement the new knowledge delivered by the Challenge.

The Challenge has already consulted with policy makers and over 50 organisations who provide healthcare, accommodation or other support to older people and will work with these groups to create a Knowledge Exchange Partners Group of stakeholder representatives.

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Vision Mātauranga

Vision Mātauranga is a New Zealand government policy that aims to unlock the science and innovation potential of Māori knowledge, resources, and people for the environmental, economic, social, and cultural benefit of New Zealand.

Vision Mātauranga is critical to Ageing Well because of Māori culture valuing older people’s knowledge, the disproportionate burden of ageing that falls on Māori populations and communities, and the commitment of Māori communities to supporting older people ageing positively in place.

Delivery of Vision Mātauranga will be supported across this, and the other Health Challenges, by the Kāhui Māori (advisory group) and the Tira Rangahau Hauora (Māori researchers and scientists). The research is strongly aligned with hauora / health and Mātauranga and includes research involving Māori and Māori-centred research and Kaupapa Māori research opportunities will be actively sought.

Specifically the Ageing Well Challenge values and acknowledges:

  • Māori have a long, rich and innovative culture in which older people’s knowledge is actively valued, recognised and used
  • The current burden of poor ageing falls disproportionately on Māori populations and communities both in urban and rural areas
  • Māori communities have shown a particular commitment to developing formal and informal processes, services and practices to support older people to age positively in place and those pathways have potential for New Zealand as a whole in the context of structural ageing
  • Iwi and hapū, urban Māori organisations, Māori businesses, and Māori individuals have long been service providers in social service and health service provision to older people, as well as in the provision of older people’s housing solutions

Māori cultural commitments to Manaaki Tangata are strongly articulated, particularly around older people. However, there is considerable evidence that Māori older people are under-serviced by health, social, and housing services in the public and private sectors. Inequalities in access and material resources are reflected in the persistently smaller longevity dividend available to Māori. This reflects the current challenges for Māori of ageing well.

Moving the Māori disability threshold is critical for achieving the cultural, social and economic aspirations of Māori and optimising Māori potential for Māori. It is also critical for New Zealand.

Māori, in common with Pacific Peoples in New Zealand, have a relatively young population structure. Their ability to age well is crucial to New Zealand’s economic and social vibrancy in the context of current dynamics of Pākehā structural ageing.

Māori have cultural traditions of elder respect and traditional authority, which have and are being innovatively developed in the context of significant changes, particularly around intergenerational relations associated with globalisation and migration. The issues for many towns and communities of social, cultural and economic adaptation to depopulation associated with out-migration of young people and low fertility levels in the remaining population are only starting to be acknowledged. But Māori rural communities have dealt with those dynamics for many generations and have been finding innovative ways in which to value and build from the knowledge of older Māori.

Further information:

Ageing Well -Vision Mātauranga- improving outcomes for Maori people

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