After more than half a decade in operation, Ageing Well National Science Challenge has gathered a lot of knowledge in the area of ageing in Aotearoa New Zealand. We are proud to share this with you as we announce the release of our book, ‘Celebrating Ageing Well: the first five years of the Ageing Well National Science Challenge’.

The book charts the course of the organisation, from inception in 2014 through our Phase 1 studies, and to the start of our Phase 2 research. We explore our commitment to collaboration, community outreach, and sharing our knowledge, in addition to our core work of funding scientific research to help all New Zealanders age well.

Photo of the cover of the book 'Celebrating Ageing Well', featuring an energetic and happy looking older woman trying to balance on a foam block with a hula hoop around her waist.
The cover of the book features Ms Pare Meha trying out elements of our Well Balanced Exhibit at the 2019 Kaumatua Olympics in Hamilton.

Dr Di McCarthy, former Chair of Ageing Well (2016-2020) said, “Celebrating Ageing Well  tells the stories of the 18 innovative projects that Ageing Well funded during Phase 1 to address some of the most serious problems facing older New Zealanders. It also acknowledges the many stakeholders and community partners who engaged with us along this journey.

“It has been a privilege to be part of the Challenge Team and I extend my grateful thanks to all who have contributed to the Challenge’s success to date,” said Dr McCarthy.

In the book, we feature our studies across Aotearoa New Zealand that span the fields of science, healthcare, anthropology, psychology, medical research, sociology, and more. We chart the research, outcomes, and impact of each project: from tackling the issue of housing for seniors and empowering older Māori through a kaumatua peer-support program, to alternative therapies for stroke recovery and helping Pacific families care for dying relatives.

Current Ageing Well Director, Associate Professor Louise Parr-Brownlie was immensely proud of the work the organisation has already achieved, and is excited to see what the future holds for Ageing Well.

“We wish to acknowledge the mahi of those who helped shape Ageing Well. We have come a long way as an organisation, making significant and innovative strides particularly around embedding Vision Mātauranga as our guiding principle, investing in Māori and Pacific research, and improving health equity for these communities,” she said.

“Building upon what we have learned so far on our journey, we can achieve our mission to ensure all new Zealanders age well,” she said.

Researchers and participants in Dr Ofa Dewes' study, Tāpinga 'a Maama.
Researchers and participants in Dr Ofa Dewes’ study, Tāpinga ‘a Maama.

Ageing Well, funded by the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), is one of 11 National Science Challenges established to tackle the biggest science-based issues and opportunities facing New Zealand. The Challenges bring together the country’s top researchers to work collaboratively across disciplines, institutions, and borders to achieve their objectives.

Ageing Well is turning its gaze toward to the future. The Phase 1 research funded by Ageing Well was deliberately broad in scope as it sought to address the challenges facing older New Zealanders. With all the knowledge gained from those projects, the next phase of research is more focused. We are addressing health and ageing inequality with the Ageing and Māori focus area, and in the second area, Health and Wellbeing in Ageing, we are looking to encourage healthy ageing and building social connections.

Professor David Baxter, the inaugural Director and current Co-Director, believes Ageing Well is continuing to respond to the needs of the communities we serve.  

“We truly believe in this vision for Aotearoa: a nation in which all New Zealanders can age well. This is reflected in the work we have funded to date, and our ongoing engagement with communities,” Professor Baxter said.

“For me, a particular highlight covered in the book has been the Well-Balanced Exhibit, a unique display for community education on the importance of maintaining health and preventing frailty, developed by Professor Nancy Longnecker and colleagues the Otago Centre for Science Communication.”

Participants in Dr Ruth Teh’s study Staying Up Right and Eating Well

The team at Ageing Well wishes to acknowledge the leadership and guidance of our Governance Group, Strategic Advisory Group, International Science Advisory Panel, and Collaborating Parties – members past and present – in addition to the research teams for making such vital contributions to helping make an impact in the lives of older Kiwis.

Dr McCarthy said, “Despite two attempts to do so, we have been unable to acknowledge their amazing contributions and research outcomes in person due to Covid 19 lockdown restrictions.  I hope the Celebrating Ageing Well book will serve as a tribute to them all.

“I hope you enjoy the read,” she added.