A study by the New Zealand Families Commission suggests that while the nation’s older people value family relationshsips, they want to remain independent.
According to the research, older people look to family and friends for emotional and practical support as they age but do not want to be seen as a burden.
The ‘Older Adults’ Experience of Family Life – linked lives and independent living’ report looked at responses to a survey by 36 older New Zealanders (aged 55 to 70).
Mary Breheny and Christine Stephens from the Massey University School of Psychology said their findings suggest that future policy for older people should reflect their desire to remain active and involved.
“Research helps us understand what is needed to support older people as they age. At the moment there is a lot of research looking at older adults within the context of their need for tax payer funded support services,” said Dr Breheny.
“We need to put more emphasis on the contributions these older people make to their families and to society over their life span.”
Most participants in the study felt it was important to stay connected with their immediate and extended family as they aged.
Some said they grew closer to their brothers and sisters as they got older, particularly once their parents died.
“Some also used the notion of family to describe the importance of friends who they felt were more like a sister, or mother, for instance,” said Dr Breheny.