The tireless work of Carole Gordon, a well-known Tauranga social scientist and social justice advocate for older people, has been recognised in the New Year Honours.
"Social justice, that's my driver and my passion," a delighted Gordon said.
"I'm especially passionate about the need for greater fairness, equality and compassion for older people who contribute so much to our society in so many ways," she said.
The 79-year-old social gerontologist from Matua, who has been made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to seniors, said she was "shocked" when she learned of the honour.
"It was a wonderful surprise. But I'm delighted and proud that my passion to ensure that there is greater recognition given to the place older people hold in our society has been recognised in this way, " she said.
Gordon is founder and national convenor of SUPA-NZ, a voluntary organisation dedicated to showcasing positive opportunities from increasing longevity and population-ageing.
She's determined to help change people's attitudes about the worth of senior citizens.
"Older people have a wealth of life experience and a lot of wisdom, and they make a huge contribution to our silver economy. Unfortunately, that is not always fully appreciated or valued in the way it should be," she said.
"We could really learn so much from the way Māori treat their elders. They consider them a taonga and someone to be respected and highly valued," she said.
Gordon has spent countless hours over many years researching and championing many causes in the pursuit of her goal and has contributed to education, health and local government initiatives.
This included achieving New Zealand's first smoke-free hospital and the first Māori liaison role at Tauranga Hospital.
She was instrumental in the establishment of an Elders Forum at Wellington and Tauranga City councils and worked with the Tauranga City Council to achieve New Zealand's first Age-Friendly City status.
Gordon has also collaborated with Massey University on elder research, resulting in a national Older and Bolder health and continuing education programme.
Involved in the set-up phase of SmartGrowth in 2004, she continues to ensure the needs of Tauranga and Western Bay's older population are included in future planning for infrastructural and social changes.
Gordon was also instrumental in setting up the Population-Ageing Technical Advisory Group, a collaboration between SmartGrowth and the Bay of Plenty Health Board.
She lobbied for countless hours to gain extensions to the discounted hours on public transport for Bay of Plenty pensioners.
"Pensioners don't just want to travel between 9 am and 3 pm to do some shopping - they want to have fun. How ridiculous to limit the discount hours to certain times of the day."
Also a founding trustee and board member of Socialink Tauranga Moana, Gordon shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
"I still have a number of issues on my list that includes tackling our elder housing and ensuring Tauranga truly becomes an age-friendly city," she said.
Achieving her Bachelor of Social Science degree with honours in her 60s, Gordon said she was "an avid fan of lifelong learning".
"I truly believe if you don't learn something new every day and do something you're really passionate about it's a waste of a day," she said.