Dean of Te Pua Wānanga ki te Ao Professor Brendan Hokowhitu is leading a $2.5 million project that focuses on older Māori, their wellbeing, social connectedness and cultural identity.
The project is part of the Ageing Well National Science Challenge that’s just entered its second phase and which has a strong focus on Health and Wellbeing in Ageing, and Ageing and Māori. It’s a follow on from an earlier first phase Ageing Well project, also led by Professor Hokowhitu that focussed on addressing the mana motuhake, the identity or autonomy of kaumatua aged 55 or older.
Several other University of Waikato staff are also involved, including Professor Jon Oetzel, Dr Mary Simpson, Associate Professor Michael Cameron and Dr Yinsha Zhang all from Waikato Management School, and Dr Sophie Nock from Te Pua Wānanga ki te Ao/Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies, as well as academics from AUT, Otago and Massey universities.
They’ll work closely with Hamilton’s Rauawaawa Kaumātua Charitable Trust, which was part of the original research, community researchers and other service providers.
Called Kaumātua Mana Motuhake Pōi, the new project has two strands. One will follow a tuakana-teina peer educator model where kaumātua help other kaumātua in need to identify and use key health and social services. The second is an inter-generational model to increase physical activity and cultural knowledge exchange including te reo Māori.
More broadly, Professor Hokowhitu hopes the research can influence both policy and practice. "That this kaumātua-centric mahi is funded across the country so that all kaumātua and other elderly New Zealanders can have the benefit of participating in programmes where mana motuhake is the focus, because if you talk to kaumātua that is what they want; independence, autonomy and a great quality of life.
"At another level, we'd like to influence discourse about our elderly. They're not a burden; they're taonga whose knowledge and experience are crucial to how a healthy society functions."
The National Science Challenge for Ageing Well is funded by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.