May 19, 2010

NEW ZEALAND: Bay's 85-year-olds quizzed about life

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TAURANGA, New Zealand / Bay of Plenty Times / News / May 19, 2010

By Kate Newton

The region's 85-year-olds are wading their way through stacks of questions as part of a research project aimed at discovering what life is like for the elderly.

"This is the first time in New Zealand a major study of advanced age has been done," research co-ordinator Carole Gordon said.

Interviews were happening at the Western Bay of Plenty PHO's Research Centre and questions were aimed at finding out how people were living to an older age and what challenges the elderly faced. About 1200 people are eligible to take part in the Study called the LILAC (Life and Living in Advanced Age) Study.

LIFE OF LAUGHS: Gwen Collard is one of 1200 people who are helping paint a picture of what life is like for the elderly.

"Never before in human history have people lived this long and we need to know what it's going to be like," Ms Gordon said.

The University of Auckland would collate the information.

Participant Gwen Collard, who lives in Bellevue, was happy to sit down for the two-and-a-half hours and painted a bright picture of what life was like at 85.

"Life is good to me," Mrs Collard said.

She recently had both hips replaced and used a walker but said she looked forward to watching the Otumoetai College students walking home past her house and enjoyed listening to music and driving the car.

"I would live in that car if I could," Mrs Collard said.

She put her long life down to hard work.

"I go to bed early and I get up early. I have been up since five o'clock this morning," she said.

Those who were the right age to take part were receiving a letter from their GP and Ms Gordon asked families and friends of those eligible to urge them to take part.

"They are coming in quite nervous but they all say 'that was fun' at the end," Ms Gordon said.

"They have had to think about a whole lot of aspects about their life.

"We have a hard job getting through it because they want to talk about everything that has happened in their life. It's quite a lovely way to reflect."

She said it was important that not only active 85-year-olds took part so as not to skew results and that those in rest homes and retirement villages should also sign up.

The study would be ongoing with participants followed up each year. Maori between the age of 80 and 90 were eligible to take part. [rc]

© APN News & Media Ltd 2010.