A Welcome Away from Home
John and Tutai Ngatikaura’s Tokoroa home might be small, but their welcome is warm and plentiful whenever SWPICS community nurse Kerry Stowers calls by to perform her regular home-based medical check-ups on the pair.
John relives the old days of arriving in New Zealand from the Cook Islands (Aitutaki via Rarotonga by the TEAL boat planes) while Tutai attempts to correct him on some finer points of detail regarding his tales.
Tokoroa has one of the largest Pacific populations outside of New Zealand’s main cities.
SWPICS CEO Akarere Henry says the evolving age demographics of the South Waikato town are creating their own challenges.
“Approximately half of Tokoroa’s total population is aged 15 and under and a third are 60 plus,” she says.
That leaves only 15-18% of the town’s population in the traditional, productive wage-earning category, but Akarere can attest to that category being even less due to declining job opportunities in the town.
“It’s more of a challenge for the elderly Pacific population in Tokoroa compared to those living in cities like Auckland or Wellington because they’re not as mobile,” she says.
“We don’t have a local public transport network with trains and buses regularly going through. Many don’t have access to a car and it’s simply too far for them to walk to the town centre or to hospital.
The first wave of Pacific migrants who came to Tokoroa for work in the 1950s, 60s and 70s are now retired, but have trouble getting out of the house.”
By the time basic living expenses are covered, Akarere adds that their options are limited.
“It costs some of them $15-$20 to get to town to do their shopping or go to the hospital, where all health services have been relocated to. Most of the time they can choose only one, therefore they miss out on the other.”
Support has come through a Whanau Ora Innovation fund, commissioned by Pasifika Futures, which increases transport options including taxi vouchers. But Akarere adds that the strongest benefit provided by greater mobility for the elderly can’t be measured by clinical data.
“When you see them among their peers enjoying each other’s company at a social events instead of being house-bound, you realise that’s as good for their overall health and wellbeing as anything,” she says.
“And we want to make sure we can make that happen as often as our resources allow us to.”
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