When I moved to Brazil in 1985, I didn't expect it would be 33 years before I returned to New Zealand.
A lot can change in 33 years. I knew what to expect from the adjustments to the economy and changes in immigration and I had read about how, after suffering from the impact of Rogernomics, the nation had restructured and moved ahead, freed from the shackles of farm subsidies, import licensing and militant unionism.
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What I didn't expect to see when I arrived home last year was how many problems our seniors are facing.
In the teeming city of São Paulo, home to 24 million Brazilians, the restaurants are full on Sundays.
Because Sunday is family day and, often, three or more generations can be seen having lunch together. When children grow up, they do not leave home. They remain at home until they marry or move away to another location because of their careers. In some cases where the family home is large enough, they may marry but remain living with one set of parents.
This works the other way as well. Children will happily invite their parents to move in with them as they grow older, so the family can remain together and enjoy everything a multi-generational and close-knit family can offer and provide.
Family recipes are always available and there is never a problem looking for a babysitter. There is no such thing as a "retirement village" and there are very few rest homes. Seniors are respected and families love to have them close by.
By comparison, our seniors seemed to be more isolated from society.
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Despite "60 being the new 40", ageing parents appear to be less included, either living in communities confined to residents of similar age or living alone or with an aged spouse. They are separated from the younger generations of the family; waiting for Christmas or a birthday to reunite for a day.
I spoke to some friends in their 60s and found that, despite having excellent professional careers, they could no longer get a job, generally being regarded as "over-qualified" on the rare occasions they were actually called to an interview.
What is there to life when your family is absent and you cannot find employment? I believe New Zealand can do so much better.
So, with two of my friends, we started to think about the ways to get seniors back to where they belong: with their families and re-engaged with society.
Once we started thinking about this, it quickly became apparent this is a big subject.
One third of New Zealanders are over 50. There are more grandparents than grandchildren.
Inevitably, we started to consider other things that affect seniors as well.
For example, there has been a noticeable tendency in this country to persuade seniors to leave their beloved homes. They are encouraged to move into a "residential community", retirement village", rest home, or similar controlled establishment. The pressure is coming from commercial developers, younger family members and/or health professionals.
Those affected often have little choice, because of the emphasis on the potential problems that can occur with seniors in their homes.
We think there is a better way, so those who wish to stay in their homes, can do so, while at the same time relatives and caregivers can be assured of peace of mind. We are searching out the best technologies to achieve this.
We have seen some positive signs recently that New Zealand is beginning to change its responses to ageing, such as the Government's "better later lives" initiative. But such changes are still slow-moving.
Boomers are much better informed than their parents on the importance of better food selection, the perils of smoking and excess drinking and the benefits of regular exercise.
However, knowledge is not the same as wisdom. We need to motivate seniors to adopt healthier practices and take action to make their lives more interesting.
The fact is we are living longer. We need to be doing more to ensure those extra years are healthier and more fulfilling.
There is no point in living longer, to spend more years being miserable. We should all have a daily dose of humour. Laughter is the best anti-ageing medicine of all.
• Kevin Smith is the managing director of Longevity International NZ Ltd, which is hosting the inaugural Longevity Fair and Forum in Auckland in October