I enjoy my own company. I could spend weeks and even months not seeing and talking to anyone.

This probably reflects the busy life I have led for the past 40 years. Full of activity and noise. Add extensive travel up and down the country, even now, and you understand why I can't wait to get home and close the door behind me.

That doesn't mean I don't enjoy meeting and mixing with people, I do, but these days I look forward to the peace and quiet of my own surroundings. This holds real attraction. And I don't feel lonely behind closed doors.

But I know some people live with loneliness every day.


A study I read last week highlighted loneliness and social isolation as a major issue faced by many older New Zealanders.

This is something those interviewed for the study often referred to. There was a range of concerns expressed by the older people who took part from a number of centres throughout the country.

Just thinking and having to plan for ageing raised anxiety.

Other concerns included wanting to stay and age in their own homes, loneliness and losing their mobility when they were no longer active, finances and struggling to make ends meet, loss of independence when assisted transport is required, coping with the care of others, and keeping up with maintenance on homes and coping with rising costs such as rent.

It is clear not all New Zealanders are ageing well and they don't all have equal access to appropriate health, support and advocacy services when needed.

One thing we do know is older New Zealanders are reluctant to make a fuss.

They take what they get whether appropriate to their needs or not. In general they do not speak up.

But the study shows they do think a lot about their current ageing situation, and reading the report I got a sense that they were pleased to be asked "what are your biggest concerns around ageing for you?"

They know what wellbeing means to them.

They're not interested in someone else's interpretation. Living close to family, if possible, was a priority.

But with many children now living in other parts of the country, and some overseas, the issue with isolation and loneliness kept reappearing.

We are right to be concerned about depression in younger people but I suspect it goes unnoticed in our older community. GPs I have talked to confirm this.

To complicate matters we now have an ageing population that is more diverse ethnically, socially and culturally.

These changing demographics will present serious challenges for health service providers trying to cater for diverse needs and expectations. There is the assumption we are all the same. Not so.

We keep hearing of the "grey tsunami" bearing down on the country. The ageing population about to cause havoc and financial ruin, especially on our health system. Just by their sheer numbers.

We should stop talking like this and start to normalise our conversations around growing older. It should not be a frightening experience. Everyone should be able to live the life they aspire to.

The report shows older people, whatever their age, do aspire to live a quality life. With respect and dignity. Just like the rest of us.