Weekly column by Kāpiti mayor K Gurunathan.
Two weeks ago, this column touched on the brutal crackdown by the military on the democratic rights of the people of Myanmar, or Burma as it was known. The column highlighted the fundraising event to support the protesters. I was delighted, last week, to receive a lovely handwritten letter complete with postage stamp from Kāpiti News reader Rosemary Collier.
Letters, especially handwritten ones, are rare these days. She commiserated with the plight of the protesters and said while she could not attend the event she had made a donation. There was a cheque for $360. A healthy addition to the $3k raised by the event. Then she made a poignant observation. "This is a historic moment - this is my last cheque form! As an older person I will find it most inconvenient not to be able to write cheques. Charities will suffer. I wish at least one bank had the courage to stick with them," she said.
Banks and government organisations have already, or are about to, phase out the use of cheques. Councils have been forced to follow. Organisations representing seniors, like Grey Power and Age Concern, are worried for a significant number of older people unable to transition to the digital age.
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My colleague, Wairoa mayor Craig Little, was in the news this week ruing the closure of three banks in recent years and the replacement of them with Smart ATM machines. "I was at the ATM the other day and I couldn't believe the number of people taking money out, because they don't know how to use an eftpos machine," he said, adding that he suspects senior citizens could be putting their cash under their mattress.
I think he could be right and this raises questions over the safety of our seniors in their homes. In Kāpiti, we have more than 3000 single-occupant households and a significant majority of these are elderly women. The demise of the cheque as a secure means of financial exchange has a psychological impact. The cheque is a foundational financial tool that has allowed older people a sense of control over their everyday lives. Such dependable means of financial exchange are particularly important during times of uncertainty.
I don't think it's an exaggeration to point out that the Covid pandemic has punched a hole in our sense of safety that comes from the predictability of everyday life. On top of that, there is the increasing bad news on the current and future impact of climate change and the worry, I suspect, grandparents have for the future of their grandchildren.
We are also experiencing serious challenges to the global geopolitics and the dominance of western powers. For a final observation on this, I refer to a comment by CNN current affairs TV presenter Christiane Amanpour. Covering the funeral of Prince Philip she noted that it was symbolic of the passing of the war generation exemplified by the values of duty, service and the dogged commitment to getting on with life.
Lastly, I want to highlight another senior citizen in the news. Stuff published a story this week on Eric Clarke. This resident of Feilding, who is suffering from multiple illnesses, had told the media that he was thinking of returning his Queens Service Medal back to the state because of his poor treatment by the health services there. Many locals will remember him. Eric was given his QSM for services he had rendered while in Paraparaumu.
He lived at a Michael St house with a large home theatre where he showed films on a large screen with an impressive sound system. He used it to raise tens of thousands of dollars for Free Ambulance. His commitment is underpinned by a sad story. He lost his only child to suicide. He always felt indebted to the ambulance service, which tried everything to save his son. He moved to Feilding about 10 years ago after the death of his wife. There, he continued to raise funds for St John. I'm sure, like me, there will be many in Kāpiti concerned for his continued wellbeing.