Willow Wi-Parata calls it her dream job. She is the kaiāwhina (support person) for Whare Tiaki which provides supported independent living for 8 kaumātua (older people) who would benefit by moving from their own home to a more supportive environment. "I love working at the Whare and supporting our kaumātua to thrive," says Willow. "The role pulls together my experience in residential care with my Te Reo skills and passion to help our elders."
What is special about Whare Tiaki is that it supports the kaumātua in connecting with the Māori world. Some of them grew up in the North Island but left their iwi to find work in Christchurch. They built a life here and got married, but may have lost the connection to their Māoritanga (cultural identity). As they have got older, they want to reconnect with the language and other Māori.
Whare Tiaki looks after the physical, mental and spiritual health of the kaumātua. Personal carers, GP's and community support workers visit the Whare and provide care as required. Each day Willow cooks lunch and another support person cooks dinner which the kaumātua love. "When some of them were living at home, the kaumātua ate very small and unhealthy meals such as noodles," says Willow. "They had lost confidence in their cooking and weren't making an effort because it was just them. Now that they are at the Whare, they eat healthy meals together and this has improved their wellbeing. A few of them have even begun talking about walking the next City to Surf."
A big focus of Whare Tiaki is helping the kaumātua to remain independent as much as possible and supporting them to push through challenges, rather than accepting these.
Outings are a big part of life for those at the Whare and help the kaumātua connect with hapori whānui (the wider Māori community). Some of the group outings this year include going out together for a hāngī, visiting family members of those at the Whare and traveling to Birdling's Flat. The trip to Birdling's Flat gave the kaumātua a chance to collect stones and talk about resource management such as eeling, fishing rights and how farms are impacting water. These outings have been funded by the Tindall Foundation.
Stewart Rehutai, one of the kaumātua at the Whare, described what being at Whare Tiaki meant for him by saying "tōku reo, tōku mana, tōku wairua, tōku oranga" – my language, my prestige and my spirituality is my health.
CMM has rooms available for older people in Whare Tiaki and other supportive living environments. If you would like to know more, please contact Housing Manager Andrea Goodman on 027 504 6760 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Picture Caption: Stewart Rehutai, Sylvia Gillard and Tia Te Aika are some of the kaumātua calling Whare Tiaki home.