Remember ME - You Me and Dementia

June 5, 2011

NEW ZEALAND: Issue of safety for our elderly is only going to grow

TAURANGA, New Zealand / Bay Of Plenty Times / June 5, 2011

Do elderly get enough support?

The case of 79-year-old Alan Evens, who suffered horrific burns when he fell and became trapped in his armchair and against a heater, is a sobering reminder about how elderly people live in our community and how we support them.

It is hard to imagine the horror he went through, being stuck and burned for hours in his home in Waihi.

He was rescued after a carer knocked on his door on Wednesday morning and heard his cries for help.

The issue of safety for our elderly is only going to grow in the years ahead. Photo/Chris Callinan

Mr Evens, who lives alone, was taken to Waikato Hospital where yesterday he remained in the high dependency unit.

Understandably, this accident has shocked Age Concern and upset his neighbours in the council flats they live in on Kenny Rd.

No one is apportioning blame in this case but, generally speaking, it highlights the danger of people living alone. Truth is older people and those who have mobility issues are more vulnerable in these situations.

Age Concern's Angela Scott says tragic accidents such as this are a "nightmare" for family, friends and neighbours.

She's right and the challenge is working out how to manage this risk.

Growth statistics earlier published in this paper show by 2050, more than a third of Tauranga's population of 285,000 will be aged over 60, and about 35,000 will be aged over 80.

These figures should sound an alarm that action needs to be taken on how to handle this growth.

They also demonstrate the issue of safety for our elderly is only going to grow in the years ahead.

In most cases, it is family who are best to support senior citizens in working out what is best for them but, for those who live alone, a pendant or similar alarm linked straight to St John Ambulance or a monitoring company provides sensible protection and peace of mind.

Regular checks by phone or in person are other measures family, friends and neighbours can take.

We wish Mr Evens all the best and a speedy recovery.

His accident will hopefully prompt other elderly people and their support networks to take a look at their own situation and risks and, if needed, make any changes.

© APN News & Media Ltd 2011.