Kaumātua connecting through kai and kōrero

Kai, kōrero and companionship is proving a winning combination for kaumātua (elders) through the Kahukura Kaumātua Programme, which is helping to bring a community together to connect and talk about hauora (health and wellbeing).

Once a month kaumātua and their whānau from across Banks Peninsula and beyond gather at Te whare Tapere o te mata hapuku – the community centre in Birdlings Flat.

Irihapeti Bullmore, who is a Kaumātua Clinical Assessor for Older Person’s Health Specialist Services at the Canterbury DHB facilitates the programme with Annette Finlay, Kaihautū Māori, Noho Mātāpono/Kaunga (Privacy/Quality) for Nurse Maude, says the venue is a beautiful rural setting with views of the beach, ocean and mountains, which helps to refresh the group members. 

“The essence or wairua of the day is of connecting and exploring the participant’s wellbeing from head to toe. There is a lot of laughter and the group has become a whānau, which is what the community wanted,” says Irihapeti. 

Activities are varied, from whare-whare bingo to a ukulele group performance, as well as information sessions covering hauora (health and wellbeing) topics including medications, Covid-19 and diabetes. A district nurse from Nurse Maude also attends most sessions to kōrero with kaumātua about their health needs.

“The sessions offer insight into the community, as the kaumātua are very honest about their health and lifestyle. For example, those with diabetes were very open about the amount of sugary foods they eat, so we were able to help with some guidance around diet,” says Irihapeti.

The group also sits down together to share seasonal kai, such as whitebait, eel, muttonbird and produce from their gardens. 

“Beautiful things happen when they all come together, such as reminiscing over the smells of cooking muttonbirds. It’s whanaungatanga – a connection through shared experiences, which gives them a sense of belonging,” says Annette. 

“Feedback from participants is that they feel more connected to their community. One of the participants who doesn’t have loved ones near, told us he now feels part of a whānau.”

The programme is also focused on carers, so they know that support is available for them too. 

“Doing things like caring for a kaumātua with dementia, so their carer can run some errands or delivering a meal can really make a positive impact,” says Annette.

“Everyone including whānau bring their knowledge and skills to the group, such as demonstrating how to make Christmas decorations and supplying food they have gathered or caught. We all learn from each other.” 

Annette and Irihapeti are thankful to Greta Bond who facilitates the Health of Older People Workstream and Community Services Service Level Alliance for the Canterbury Clinical Network for helping to ‘open doors and turn the machine’ to enable this programme. 

“The challenge is listening to the community, so they get what they need and ensuring equitable access to support and services for kaumātua living in rural areas,” says Greta. 

The plan is to handover the programme to the community once fully established; and then set up other programmes in different areas. 

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