Dignity Awards Say Go!

Some years ago a lifelong devotee of yoga brought together the residents of her retirement home to teach them this 4,000-year-old relaxation and meditation technique. She was 90.

A friend used to accompany what she used to call the elderly, on bus tours around Auckland when she was in her late eighties.

Right now, all around the country, there’s a veritable army of older volunteers visiting those who eke out a lonely existence. But over and above that there can be some quite stunning achievements and two were recognised by Age Concern this month. It awarded two women the International Day of Older People (IDOP) 2015 Dignity Champion Award.

Margaret Dando from Age Concern Otago won her Award for Community for what Age Concern described as her ‘amazing work in establishing the falls prevention programme for older people, Steady As You Go’.

Sally Blundell from The Listener won the Dignity Champion Award for Media for her commitment in voicing the important issues that older people in New Zealand are currently facing.

Steady as You Go (SAYGO) is a one hour weekly, ongoing, strength and balance exercise programme with a central coordinator, for over 65 -year-olds living independently in the community. Margaret developed a peer-led model of the class which enables people to continue their strength and balance class after ten weeks.

Age Concern New Zealand CEO Robyn Scott says that it is Margaret’s excellent working relationship with older people that has enabled her to develop such a robust programme that is making a huge difference in the lives of older people.

Today there are 42 peer-led SAYGO classes in Dunedin City and 18 in rural Otago and Southland townships. With the support of 120 peer leaders, Margaret continues to manage and grow this huge programme which now has 1400 participants.

“Margaret really and truly is a deserving recipient of the 2015 Dignity Champion Award for Community” says Mrs Scott. “We are honoured to present her with this award on International Day of Older People.”

Mrs Scott was also thrilled to award Sally Blundell her award.

“This year Sally has written two incredibly in depth articles about two hugely important issues for older people – loneliness and social isolation and elder abuse.” With more than 50,000 older New Zealanders experiencing loneliness and with Age Concern receiving more than 2,000 referrals of elder abuse every year, these issues are something that older people are facing every day…”

“We are hugely grateful to Sally for shining a light on these issues” says Mrs Scott. “We are thrilled to be able to recognise her compassion by awarding her the Dignity Champion Award for Media.”

The Dignity Champion Award is awarded annually on International Day of Older People to those who show an outstanding commitment to breaking down ageism and stereotypes and encouraging dignity and respect for all people.

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Paul Smith

Paul is a veteran journalist, non-fiction author and writing mentor. He has also served on boards ranging from TVNZ to UNESCO.