26 Oct 2018

Many kaumātua feel isolated - report

1:30 pm on 26 October 2018

With the elderly Māori population expected to climb - a new report shows there's still a taboo for Māori around the care of their kaumātua.

Mark Rerekura and Lalita Samuels.

Mark Rerekura and Lalita Samuels. Photo: RNZ / John Boynton

The Kaumātuatanga Report focuses on the concerns and aspirations of kaumātua who use Whānau Ora services.

It said Māori families need to start talking more about the unavoidable challenges of dealing with old age.

Te Oranga Kaumātua Kuia is an organisation which provides support services for kaumātua in South Auckland.

Lalita Samuels has been part of the organisation for 11 years - and says it offers a vital service for the elderly.

"It takes a while to get them to come out of their shell and ask for the support they need."

As a kaumātua herself she understood the isolation many of them face.

"They worry about their finances, everything that we worry about ... the mokopuna all those things don't go away - the more isolated they are, the bigger the worries they have."

Te Pou Matakana Whānau Ora research director Tanya Allport was the lead on the Kaumātuatanga Report.

She said the place of kaumātua within whānau was a common concern.

"What we found is that a lot of kaumātua are concerned about ... being able to look after their own whānau still, and still being relevant and being able to help."

By 2021, one in eight Māori will be 65 years and older - and Dr Allport says there's still a lack of planning around elderly care for Māori.

"So normalising sort of the discourse around aging - that often wasn't talked about within whānau in the sense of how do we plan, what do we do."

Others key issues to come out of the report included kaumātua feeling isolated, the need to improve access to services and being able to find affordable housing.

Dr Allport said increasing numbers of kaumātua are also looking after their mokopuna - and many often had no support.

Te Pou Matakana is the North Island commissioning agency for Whānau Ora - and the research focused on kaumātua in Northland, Auckland, the central North Island and the East Coast.