Many New Zealanders who are retiring are ‘empty nesters’, but this is not true for everyone.
Kay is 65 and lives in the South Island. She is the mother of an adult son who is intellectually disabled. Kay’s son has always lived with her and her husband and will do so for as long as possible.
Kay has volunteered for the IHC for 16 years, work that Kay will continue into her retirement. This has included 10 years being the Chair of IHC North Canterbury and on the Member Council since 2017. IHC has more than 1000 volunteers across its community programmes, with 40% who are retired.
“If you have the time and the opportunity, then you have an obligation to help others,” a quote Kay lives by.
This community-minded attitude, evident in Kay, is typical of many older New Zealanders. Retirement is not a time to stop, but to continue important volunteer work which contributes to many community programmes and charitable trusts.
While retirement for Kay and her husband is not straightforward, Kay is grateful for NZ Super. It provides an important safety net for her and her family.
“NZ Super gives me the comfort of knowing if my work ability faltered at this stage through health reasons, or family, we would at least be able to rely on a regular income,” she says.
While NZ Super means Kay can stop work when she needs to, she is less concerned for herself, and more for her son. Her son would struggle to live on the funding he receives now, without his parents’ support, both financially and emotionally.
Which poses a question for Kay – what does retirement look like when you are still supporting your child? Many New Zealanders support family in their retirement years; this role does not stop once they reach 65-years-old. The financial support NZ Super provides takes some of the pressure off. Juggling work life and family and community responsibilities is harder as people get older their health can impact on what they are able to do.
While Kay contemplates what retirement might look like for her now that she is 65, she continues to enjoy volunteering. NZ Super also means Kay can afford to keep volunteering when she stops paid work.
“Volunteering not only takes my time, but there are actual minor costs that volunteers pick up, such as fuel and running expenses, cellphone use, baking, and gift donations. Depending on how active a person is in their community these costs can really mount up,” says Kay.
For Kay, continuing to give back is important, “the strength of social support in New Zealand is a crucial element of having quality of life for people who are not as well off as others”.
The quality of life that Kay’s son has is due to organisations like IHC and the volunteer work that they undertake. Their work has a significant impact on people in the community, especially on people with an intellectual disability and their families. Kay’s son leads a life full of social connection; he has the support to visit libraries, community groups, and cafes to meet with friends. These activities ensure he is a valued part of his local community.
NZ Super benefits not only individuals but through volunteer work, the wider community. It allows New Zealanders who are 65 plus to put their energy into unpaid work and contribute back to society, enabling many others to benefit from their time and commitment.