Moving on to new things

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After 15 years as a leading advocate for older people in Dunedin, Age Concern Otago executive officer Susan Davidson is stepping down. Brenda Harwood reports.

Susan Davidson might be leaving the helm of Age Concern Otago, but the advocate for the elderly is loath to call it ‘‘retirement’’. Mrs Davidson will leave her role as executive officer on November 11 to spend time with family and to seek volunteering opportunities. ‘‘I would rather think of it as stepping out — moving on to new things,’’ she said. ‘‘I’m intending to do a lot.’’ During her time with Age Concern Otago, Mrs Davidson has seen many changes, particularly with the use of technology for rostering Meals on Wheels drivers and client records. ‘‘There are also still longstanding issues that we are dealing with — in particular, elder abuse,’’ she said. The number of reports of elder abuse had increased in recent years, which Mrs Davidson believed was mainly due to increased awareness in the community. ‘‘People are more inclined to step forward and talk about it now, which is a positive step.’’ An issue of increasing concern was the social isolation of older people, Mrs Davidson said. Due to a shift towards the concept of ‘‘ageing in place’’, a growing number of people with chronic illnesses were now struggling at home on their own. ‘‘Something I would like to see would be for every Dunedin city councillor to deliver Meals on Wheels,’’ Mrs Davidson said. ‘‘It is a very good way to see how some people are living.’’ On the other side of the coin, Mrs Davidson has been delighted to see the growing focus on supporting people to remain robust and able. ‘‘When I first joined Age Concern, a lot of the activities for our older people were sitting down,’’ she said. ‘‘Now, the Octagon Club is filled with activity.’’ Seniors were able to participate in a wide range of activities, from bowls to line dancing, gym classes, tai chi and Steady As You Go (SAYGo) exercise classes. Age Concern Otago was one of Dunedin’s largest voluntary organisations and covered the ‘‘whole spectrum’’, from delivering Meals on Wheels to peer leadership. Mrs Davidson paid tribute to its board and staff, who had been vital to its strength and stability. ‘‘Like every other not-forprofit organisation, the struggle for funding is always there.’’ Now that Mrs Davidson is stepping down, her first order of business is to enjoy a holiday with her husband and spend more time with her two grandchildren.
Her plans remain ‘‘fairly fluid’’, but she would like to remained connected to the not-for-profit sector. A member of the board of Connect South, she is also on a national board representing consumers with ACC.