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Hawke’s Bay charities facing increased demand from pensioners as winter arrives

Updated: Jun 26

Two of Hawke’s Bay’s most relied-upon charitable organisations have seen a significant increase in service demand from those aged over 65, with events like Cyclone Gabrielle and Covid-19 only heightening the need.

Mitchell Hageman hears from people on the ground about what they are doing to help meet demand, from blankets to food parcels to energy payments, and why our most vulnerable need help.

Ten years ago, Ian Jones of Hawke’s Bay household goods charity Christian Love Link wouldn’t have imagined seeing pensioners as clients.

Jones says in 2024, they now make up about 8 per cent of his charity’s clients.

“It’s a trend that winter is part of, but it’s also a general trend for us,” he said.

“We’re certainly seeing an increased demand in that older age bracket.”

At Nourished for Nil, there’s a similar pattern. Christina McBeth says she’s been surprised by how many elderly people her food rescue service saw as winter approached.

Nourished for Nil sessions for seniors have seen an increase in demand of over 65 per cent since the start of the year - from distributing 180 food parcels on average to 300.

Jones said the ongoing housing shortage, rental crisis and cost of living were key drivers for why seniors were seeking help.

“[There are] multiple factors, but the biggest impact on my mind comes down to housing affordability,” he said. Cyclone Gabrielle also displaced some elderly people who are now in new pensioner flats or accommodations and need furniture.

“For various reasons, a number of people haven’t been able to set themselves up for when they are not working. The flow-on effect appears in unusual places.

“If you look at the likes of the retirement villages being built, they are great, but the people we are dealing with don’t have the capital to move into those places.”

Most of Jones’ elderly client referrals came through Hawke’s Bay Hospital and Age Concern. He encouraged people to contact Christian Love Link directly if they required furniture or crucial home supplies.

“We’re happy to support people where we can and try to support their situation.” Seeing a change

McBeth said the pandemic and cyclone had led to a shift in the demographics of people who were were starting to use food rescue services like their social supermarket.

“The cyclone has brought in people that we would not expect to be using our service,” she said.

Like Jones, McBeth credited the increase in elderly attendance to “a combination of things”, and the themes between the two agencies were similar.

The social element of Nourished to Nil’s new social supermarket may have been an element, as well as the burden of a mortgage, cost of living, and still having guardianship over children and grandchildren.

“It’s really been noticeable for us.

“I’ve had the odd person tell me they still have a mortgage. A number of them are also helping raise the next generation of kids.” Paul Digby was one of many people attending Thursday’s senior sessions, picking up a parcel for his 89-year-old mum.

He said the cost of living was a major issue for the elderly and many, like his mum, used the service to combat costs.

“Going to Nourished for Nil supplements what she needs. It’s a brilliant service.”

He said there would “most definitely” be more people seeking similar services as costs continue to increase.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out what you get from Nourished for Nil on a visit supplements your grocery bill and keeps the cost of your food down.”

Aotearoa Food Rescue Alliance interim general manager Iain Lees-Galloway said he had also noticed the trends.

“I think everything is closely linked to the cost of living. Among general inflation, the inflation of food prices has been particularly high.

“Older people [who are] on fixed incomes or totally reliant on superannuation payments are struggling to make ends meet.”

Lees-Galloway said food banks were a “really important way” to help people get through the week, and the Government had committed to another 12 months of funding for the organisation.

“Thankfully, there are organisations in our communities prepared to help.” Government commitments

Tukituki MP Catherine Wedd, who was involved in a blanket drive for Christian Love Link, said the Government was committed to helping Hawke’s Bay’s ageing population.

“Improving the lives of the nearly 870,000 New Zealanders aged 65 or over is one of the priorities of the coalition Government,” she said.

Wedd cited extra relief delivered through the Government’s tax plan and a commitment to maintain current eligibility conditions for NZ Superannuation and the Winter Energy Payment as initiatives that would help ease the burden on seniors.

“The Winter Energy Payment kicked in on May 1 and will go until October 1. The Winter Energy Payment is an extra payment to help with the cost of heating homes over the winter months.

She also acknowledged the “significant connection” between health and housing for seniors.

“We need to acknowledge that older New Zealanders should have a range of options available to them that meet their needs at any point in time, including different housing models, retirement villages, home and respite care, through to aged and dementia care.”

She said transitions through these different options needed to be managed well and required funding and workforce models that could sustainably support them.

“Several work programmes aiming to address housing and health challenges for seniors are already under way, including the aged care funding review, completion of the Retirement Villages Act 2003 review, and making it easier to build “granny flats” through easing conditions around the construction of subsidiary dwellings.”

Last week, the Health Select Committee also agreed to undertake an inquiry into aged care provision. Wedd said the scope of this inquiry will include the sector’s current and future capacity to support those experiencing early-onset neurological disorders like dementia and ensure appropriate asset thresholds for sustainable services.

Mitchell Hageman joined Hawke’s Bay Today in January 2023. From his Napier base, he writes regularly on social issues, arts and culture, and the community. Article Supplied by Nz Herald Hawke’s Bay charities facing increased demand from pensioners as winter arrives - NZ Herald

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