“If I didn’t have this group to come to I’d be sitting on my own at home.”

Kāinga Ora tenant Eleanor’s words are sadly a sign of a much larger issue.

According to Age Concern, about half of all older New Zealanders experience loneliness, and one-in-10 are lonely most or all of the time.

For Eleanor, though, a regular catch-up for over-65s run by her Tenancy Manager Stacey means she gets to meet new people, find new hobbies and regularly hear from local community groups about things like upcoming events and important safety tips in the home.

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I look forward to it every time,” Eleanor said of the gathering held every two months.

“Stacey is lovely. I love her to bits. She’s been absolutely awesome to me, she’s my best mate – that’s the only way I can put it.”

The events began when Stacey started noticing many of her older tenants in the Mosgiel area “were kind of hanging out for visits”. She now gets notified whenever a tenant in her area turns 65 so she can invite them to join in.

“Some don’t have a lot of family or family has moved away. They actually see us as a really big part of their lives and we’re really fortunate to be able to go into their homes and see them,” Stacey said.

Mosgiel tenant William shares a joke with Tenancy Manager Stacey at the event.

“To see them outside of their home, in a setting where they don’t feel that you’re there to check the house – they’re actually here to have a chat and a laugh – that’s the best part. Sometimes it can have nothing to do with housing – it actually doesn’t matter – sometimes they just need someone to talk to.”

The get-togethers began informally but quickly developed. More people started coming along, and other local groups saw the benefit of taking part.

The local Community Constable would regularly visit, as would members of the local Community Board, Neighbourhood Support and the East Taieri Church. In a recent visit, Fire and Emergency provided tips about lowering fire risk and keeping their homes safe.

The events have also encouraged people like Albert, who recently lost his wife, to head along and meet new people.

“I’ve got a couple mates I know who come down here. It’s good to meet different people as well … it fills in a bit of time and I think it gets better each time I come because you don’t feel so scared,” he said.

For another tenant, William, it was “a good opportunity to talk to our housing managers if there’s anything we need”, as well as the social aspect.

“The older ones are left alone a lot more than they used to be. Years ago we cared for our grandparents.

“Today’s young people, I find, don’t have the same concern … some of the people who live around me, they don’t have family who visit at all.

“I think it’s important that we do this and look after each other.”

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Page updated: 18 November 2019