Elderly advocate retires from role


A support person who’s helped hundreds of Wakatipu elderly has left her job.

Helen Stevens has been Age Concern’s Queenstown coor-dinator for the past 18 years.

“It’s been a big part of my life and my working career but it’s time for a break,” she says.

“I’ve got elderly parents who need a bit more time rather than being squeezed in between a Friday and a Monday, so I’ll go and catch up with them.”

Stevens’ role was created after local health watchdogs Karen Boulay and Mike Lynch wrote a paper for the regional health board identifying that older people needed help navigating the complex and ever-changing health system.

The new role came under the umbrella of non-governmental organisation, Age Concern Southland.

Stevens says “it’s been a fabulous role and one I felt has had some value to the community”.

She identifies four key areas – accessing healthcare and home support for older people, identifying loneliness, helping with income and financial entitlements, and helping elderly get their affairs in order.

Stevens has also dealt with about one case a month of elder abuse – “it can be quite massive or something that’s smallish but still nevertheless needs to be addressed”.

Mountain Scene recently highlighted the case of a sex worker allegedly duping an 88-year-old local man out of $160,000.

Stevens says there’s a need for respite care in Queenstown to give a partner caring for a sicker partner a break.

She welcomes the large Queenstown and Arrowtown retirement villages, currently under construction, for providing more options for local elderly, but says it would be good if their promised resthome, hospital-level and dementia care facilities came onboard “a bit more quickly”.

“I think we do value the elderly, but I think probably they’ve become less obvious as the community splits into different neighbourhoods.”

She hails the Wakatipu Senior Citizens Association for helping elderly keep in touch with each other.

When Stevens started her job, she rented a little room in the Senior Citizens’ former rooms. Fittingly, her last day coincides with a luncheon celebrating the 10th anni-versary of the association’s new rooms.

Meanwhile, her successor, Queenstowner Duncan Ed-wards, takes over today.