Health promotion helps boost health and wellbeing of older people
Health promotion is a key part of Age Concern New Zealand’s work in helping older people live a great later life, make the choices that best suit them and to access the services and help they need.
As part of our commitment to sharing our valued members’ stories, in this issue we caught up with Chrisanne Tarry, Health Promotion Advisor with this wonderful organisation to get some insight into what her role entails and why she is so passionate about her job.
Chrisanne discusses some of the social determinants of health that affect older people in Aotearoa and what health promotion initiatives/strategies Age Concern offers to address these and improve their health and wellbeing?
Hauora also asked about how Age Concern New Zealand was dealing with the challenges posed by Covid-19 and what initiatives it is running to help alleviate the stress of older people during the pandemic?
Hauora: Can you tell us a bit about your background and how and why you became interested in health promotion?
Chrisanne: Growing up, I was always interested in the health field but being squeamish deterred me from becoming a GP like my dad. Instead, what started my journey was tagging along to a friend’s sister’s prosthetic appointment. Becoming a prosthetist appealed because it seemed creative, rewarding, far from any blood, and I liked the idea of supporting patients long-term.
Shortly into my Bachelor of Health Sciences degree, I was introduced to the term health promotion. Health promotion challenged my thinking from wanting to improve people’s lives with prosthetics, to building more inclusive environments and eliminating barriers to participate in society.
Health promotion and population health made complete sense because it is creative, rewarding, far from any blood, supports people’s health and wellbeing, but also benefits a greater number of lives.
Hauora: I read on the Age Concern New Zealand website that you are ‘passionate’ about your work supporting older adults’ physical and mental wellbeing. Where did this passion stem from and how do you reflect this in your work?
Chrisanne: My passion began with a University internship with the Selwyn Foundation where I researched falls prevention strategies for older adults. My research, the opportunity to join a Forever Young strength and balance class and holding a focus group with Selwyn Village residents steered me towards a summer job as a carer at Terrace View Retirement Village in Ashburton. The residents at Terrace View made me smile every day.
After moving to Wellington in 2019, I got the amazing job of Health Promotion Advisor at Age Concern New Zealand. I am passionate about what I do because every day is different, and the challenges faced by older adults are so broad. I’m continually learning about initiatives on housing, mental wellbeing, nutrition, physical health, digital use, social connection, transport, employment, income, the environment, elder abuse, addiction, falls and more. It’s inspiring and motivating to be sharing this information, offering support, and promoting ways to improve older people’s lives.
Hauora: How long have you been the Health Promotion Advisor with Age Concern New Zealand and what does your job entail? What do you love most about your job?
Chrisanne: I have been the Health Promotion Advisor at Age Concern New Zealand for almost three years.
Key parts of my job include: organising trainings and providing health promotion support to Age Concern New Zealand staff; inspiring and sharing innovative health promotion ideas; developing and updating resources that promote healthy ageing or make health promotion delivery easier and reporting to the Ministry of Health.
I love supporting local Age Concern health promotion staff with health promotion delivery and inspiring new health promotion ideas. My colleagues are incredibly friendly, motivated and intelligent and I enjoy getting to hear success stories like “I had a shower this morning standing up, for the first time in five years”.
I also enjoy the opportunities to expand, improve and inspire successful and best health promotion practice. Various conferences, trainings and conversations spark new ideas which I can share with our Age Concern whānau.
One example is when I attended the “Rock the Boat” National Elder Abuse Conference in Australia. A talk on Artists in Care highlighted the remarkable impact creativity can have on physical and mental wellbeing. Since then, I’ve learned about sensory rooms, the health benefits of poi and arts-based research methods. This is just one example and I’m grateful to be continually inspired with new health promotion ideas.
Hauora: What are some of the social determinants of health that affect older people in Aotearoa and what health promotion initiatives/strategies do Age Concerns offer to address these and improve their health and wellbeing?
Chrisanne: Older people are affected by housing, employment, income, ageism and many of the other social determinants of health. At a national level, we write submissions to ensure policies support the needs, dignity, rights and wellbeing of older adults.
At a national and local level, we attend and organise events and use social media, campaigns and newsletters to frequently speak out against ageism and issues affecting older people. World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on 15 June and International Day of the Older Persons on 1 October are key dates where we promote ageing well, and with dignity and respect.
All Age Concerns share information and answer a wide range of queries relating to housing and residential care, income, employment and government support, accessing health services and navigating the health and social systems.
Other health promotion activities delivered by local Age Concerns vary depending on their community. Programmes range from digital technology to healthy eating, physical activity and driver education.
Hauora: What sort of feedback do you get from those who participate in Age Concern New Zealand’s health promotion initiatives?
Chrisanne: We receive overwhelmingly positive feedback on our health promotion activities.
Common quotes we receive mention noticeable changes to a person’s lifestyle like: “My agility has improved. I can now step up steps one at a time” or “I can mow the lawn now and put my socks on in a sitting position”.
Majority of our health promotion programmes have a social connection component which proves to be of significant benefit, and we receive many quotes like: “I like the companionship of the group and go home happier” or “This class is why I get out of bed on Mondays”.
We also receive a generous amount of appreciation for the health promotion activities we offer. For example:
- “Absolutely feel nourished, pampered, wiser from words of wisdom and the journeys we go on during the mindfulness sessions. Very relaxing and feel I have been kind to myself”
- “Reacquainted with Māori tikanga and te reo after years of being away from it”
- “Learned a lot about nutrition that helps brain health”
- “Not too structured- music, korero, whenever the spirit calls. Friendly atmosphere where just listening can be great”
- “It was motivational to adopt better sleep/habits”
- “Thinking about getting a mobility scooter now so I am ready if I stop driving”
- “Great to know how to detect some of the many scams out there”
Hauora: How is Age Concern New Zealand dealing with the challenges posed by Covid-19 and do you have any particular initiatives aimed at alleviating the stress of older people during this crisis?
Chrisanne: Covid-19 has highlighted issues like digital use and loneliness. Many Age Concerns offer digital technology support to older adults. Several Age Concerns also coordinate an Accredited Visiting Service to connect people who feel lonely with a volunteer visitor.
In 2020, Age Concern New Zealand also launched the Coalition to End Loneliness. This has brought like-minded organisations together, to share ideas, resources, and collaboratively end loneliness. Covid-19 has increased conversations on loneliness and grown momentum to connect people and communities.
Age Concern is in 40 locations across Aotearoa and so to alleviate stress, we reminded people to ask for help and to contact Age Concern if they had any concerns. We promoted our free phone number (0800 65 2 105) which was able to connect people to their local Age Concern and was set up because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Local Age Concerns also offered a range of services like welfare checks, shopping and medication delivery services, phone-a-friend or pen pal services, care package deliveries, online activities, hardcopy and e-newsletter mailouts, along with answering hundreds or thousands of calls.
To support mental and physical wellbeing we helped develop the Healthy For Life tv programme and shared tips like ‘keeping a routine’. One example of how Age Concern New Zealand practiced this was at 3pm every weekday, we zoomed in to do the afternoon Stuff quiz. Sometimes we even set themes like ‘Come with a silly hat’ or a DIY face covering.
Hauora: What is your ultimate goal as Health Promotion Advisor with Age Concern?
Chrisanne: My main goal is to keep growing and inspiring new health promotion services offered by local Age Concerns so all older people can thrive physically, mentally, socially, financially, digitally and culturally.
My goal aligns with the Better Later Life – He Oranga Kaumātua 2019-2034 strategy which has five key areas for action:
- Achieving financial security and economic participation
- Promoting healthy ageing and improving access to services
- Creating diverse housing choices and options
- Enhancing opportunities for participation and social connection
- Making environments accessible
I hope to help make a difference to these key action areas and ultimately improve the health and wellbeing of older people in Aotearoa.