A programme of regular social activities, light physical exercise and health-related speakers is contributing to the wellbeing of Whanganui kaumātua.

The kaumātua meet every month for lunch, with about 50 older Māori people gathering at Rangahaua Marae in Bell St for October's event where the upcoming Kaumātua Kanikani (dance) was a hot topic for discussion.

The kaumātua have made lei to prepare for their Island Nights-themed dance on November 22, where sashes will be awarded to the best dancers and best-dressed male and female.

The dance is at the Whanganui War Memorial Centre and the 150 tickets, costing $25 each, are selling fast, organiser Terence Matthews said.

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There will be line dancing, rock 'n' roll, ballroom, disco, slow dancing and light refreshments. The DJ will be Brendon Broughton and Matt Rayner will be MC.

It's the second dance held for local kaumātua. The first, last year, had a masked theme.

The balls have arisen out of the monthly kaumātua luncheons put on by iwi health organisation Te Oranganui, CEO Wheturangi Walsh-Tapiata said.

Looking after kaumātua is a priority for Te Oranganui CEO Wheturangi Walsh-Tapiata. Photo / Bevan Conley
Looking after kaumātua is a priority for Te Oranganui CEO Wheturangi Walsh-Tapiata. Photo / Bevan Conley

"We see kaumātua as a priority in terms of whānau wellness, so it's really important that we look after their wellbeing."

Their programme also includes line dancing, with the biggest summer occasions to come the kanikani (dance) and Christmas lunch.

"We have over 100 for that one. Everybody comes out," Walsh-Tapiata said.

The luncheons started more than 10 years ago, co-ordinated by Sharon McKenzie. The first were in Putiki Marae's kaumātua room, with about 15 people. They grew into the marae's wharekai (dining hall).

When that was a bit cold, Tupoho Whanau Trust invited the kaumātua to Rangahaua Marae at the edge of the Tupoho Community Complex.

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They've been there on the last Wednesday of most months ever since. Each lunch is catered by staff from a different Te Oranganui service. On October 30 it was the turn of Te Waipuna staff and support staff, but others came to help.

The lunch is usually preceded by light physical exercise and a speaker on a health-related subject, and it finishes with a song or two.

The kaumātua give a koha (donation), and when Te Oranganui's funding for the programme lapsed the luncheons carried on while more funding is being negotiated.

The kaumātua are mostly from the three iwi Te Oranganui serves - and there's no criteria of age or status to take part.

"It's self-defining," Walsh-Tapiata said.

Angel Haami has been going to Te Oranganui's kaumātua luncheons for more than 10 years. Photo / Bevan Conley
Angel Haami has been going to Te Oranganui's kaumātua luncheons for more than 10 years. Photo / Bevan Conley

Angel Haami has been going to the luncheons from the start.

"I love the company and I love meeting people that come from all over," she said.

She lives in Castlecliff and catches the bus to Wicksteed St to get to the marae.

She comes from a very musical family.

"You name it, we play it."

Her true home is Ranana on the Whanganui River Rd.

"We go back most weekends, just to be home and, my old people say, to recharge our batteries."

Haami said she's good at all kinds of dancing and would love to go to the ball.