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August 2021

In this issue

Welcome to the August 2021 edition of the SuperSeniors Newsletter, which kicks off with a message from Minister for Seniors Ayesha Verrall, talking about the changes coming to this newsletter. 

This edition features advice on how to avoid getting sick with Listeria, why a daily singing session is good for you, and an overview of the accomplishments of those named in The Queen’s Birthday Honours for their services to seniors.

If you’re a caregiver, there’s an article on the State of Caring Survey on how to give feedback and why it’s important.     

The 2021 funding round for the Office for Seniors Age friendly Fund (formerly known as Community Connects Grants) is open for applications from 4th August.

There is some financial advice from the Banking Ombudsman about joint bank accounts and other tips to make your banking smoother.

There’s also some information on Warmer Kiwi Homes, Residential Care subsidy, and the Unsupported Child’s Benefit. 

From Minister for Seniors Hon Dr Ayesha Verrall

Hon Dr Ayesha Verall

Over the past few months, I have had some invaluable opportunities to get out in the community to meet with older people and speak to different groups. I have been discussing the work underway in the Seniors portfolio, including work to set up the Aged Care Commissioner and the development of the first Better Later Life Action Plan, which will focus on employment, housing, and digital inclusion.

Some other news that I am very excited to share with you all is that this newsletter is getting an upgrade. I often hear from people about how much they enjoy reading these newsletters, but there is always room for improvement. The Office for Seniors is constantly working to incorporate your feedback to make this newsletter as helpful and informative as possible. So, for International Day of Older Persons on October 1st, the Office for Seniors will release the first edition of the new look newsletter which will be renamed the Seniors Newsletter.

One change you’ll notice is that these newsletters are easier to read, for those with visual impairments. We know eyesight deteriorates as we age, so it’s important for these newsletters to be as accessible as possible.

An updated Office for Seniors website will also be replacing the SuperSeniors website soon. This website has been designed with the highest standards for accessibility in mind. There will be a fully detailed story about the new website in the next newsletter.

By now, everyone in Group 3 who’s registered with a GP or other health provider should have received an invitation to book in their appointment for their COVID-19 vaccination. If you're not yet booked in, call the COVID Vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26 to arrange an appointment.

Everyone 65 and over is included in Group 3, which is made up of more than one million New Zealanders, including people with disabilities and some underlying health conditions. It will take time to work through so many people and district health boards will have to pace out vaccinations over the next few months.

It’s been great to see our vaccination campaign scaling up in recent weeks, with more vaccines arriving into the country, and regulations being changed to allow retired health professionals to join the vaccinator workforce to expand our capacity.

Speaking of which, it’s important we keep scanning in and keeping a record of where we’ve been.

There are alternatives to the COVID Tracer app. You can download and print out the COVID Tracer Booklet from the COVID-19 website or keep a record in your own notebook. You must still use the sign-in sheets provided at all venues. If you still have questions about the vaccine, I encourage you to go to the Unite Against COVID-19 website for information.

It’s certainly been a frosty winter, probably even colder than some of us expected. If you had previously opted out of the Winter Energy Payment, you can opt back in at any time through the Work and Income website. The payment period for the Winter Energy Payment started on May 1st and ends on October 1st.


Queens' Birthday Honours: Services to Seniors


The Queen’s Birthday Honours recognises the unique achievements of many great New Zealanders from all walks of life. Those who were honoured this year include three people who have made significant contributions to seniors.

Dr Linda Robertson was named an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for services to Occupational Therapy and seniors. She has worked in the field for 40 years and published the key text “Clinical Reasoning in Occupational Therapy” (2012). Dr Robertson has been an advocate for older people as a regional representative on the executive committee of the New Zealand Association of Gerontology (NZAG) for 15 years, being made a Life Member of the association in 2020 for helping develop and grow the Otago branch. She has also been a Board member of Age Concern Otago for 10 years.

Stephen Phillips (JP) was named a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) for services to seniors and the community. He was Chief Executive of Age Concern Canterbury (2008-2012). Since 2020 he has been Vice President of Age Concern New Zealand, where he has established and supported initiatives to improve quality of services to older people and contributed to development of city-wide policies to promote inclusive communities, ensure funding for organisations working with seniors, and empowering older people.

Janice White has received the Queen’s Service Medal (QSM) for services to seniors and people with disabilities. In her career, she has been involved with the Ministry of Health Disability Services and Needs Assessment and Service Coordination (NASC) in the development of national guidelines, packages of care and services to support quality of life for people with disabilities. She has also spent many years serving on national and local not-for-profit boards and trusts.

To read the full list of honourees for this years Queen’s Birthday Honours visit the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Website.


Singing for seniors


Do you love a good sing in the shower? Do you belt out a bit of Bohemian Rhapsody around the house? It turns out, you’re improving your health.

“Singing improves your mood, reduces depression and anxiety,” says Dr Nicola Swain, Associate Professor at the School of Physiotherapy at Otago University.

“It has been found to give people more energy and reduce fatigue… improves lung function, heart health, and relieves symptoms of Alzheimers.” 

A singing session as short as 20 minutes has been found to have a positive effect, Dr Swain adds.

There’s also added benefits to singing with others, according to Dr Daphne Rickson, Adjunct Professor in Music Therapy at the New Zealand School of Music.

“[While] clearly some benefits can be gained by singing alone… reportedly, the most important benefits for seniors include getting out, being with other people, developing relationships, and having a positive outlook on life.

“Singing in a choir provides opportunities for like-minded people to meet, support each other, and develop a sense of community. In short, it counteracts loneliness.

Dr Rickson adds that singing together creates an experience of synchronicity, bonding, group cohesion. 

“People report that singing in a choir is stimulating, provokes reminiscence, and can give them an increased sense of meaning and purpose,” 

But what if you can’t sing? Dr Swain says unless you’re one of the per cent of people with a condition known as amusia who can't recognise familiar tunes or hum along, most people can definitely sing and don’t have to learn how. 

“Many more people than this call themselves tone-deaf, around 17 per cent,” Dr Swain says “but they are more likely to be non-confident singers”.

If you’re keen (but need more convincing) to get involved, Dr Rickson has more good news.

“Some people are reluctant to join a choir because singing is new to them, or they feel self-conscious about their voice. Equally, many people are surprised by how much healthier or relaxed they feel once they take the plunge.”

“Individuals report not only greater confidence in singing, but improved self-confidence overall.

“People often join choirs at transition points in their life, such as when they move to a new community, or retire. So, I would recommend that readers give it a go!”

Check out opportunities to join choirs near you by contacting your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau on 0800 367 222 or visit the website:


Age friendly community funding


The 2021 funding round for the Office for Seniors Age friendly Fund (formerly known as the Community Connects Grants Programme) opens this month.

The Age friendly Fund supports projects that promote the inclusion and contribution of older people in community life and support their community to prepare for an ageing population.

The programme makes one-off grants of between $5,000 - $15,000, funding a select number of projects that demonstrate innovative approaches to age friendly communities and projects that support intergenerational connection and participation. We will continue to support the development of age friendly strategies and plans.  

The Age friendly Fund is open to any New Zealand council, community organisation, or registered non-profit organisation. All proposals must be supported by their local council.

Applications for the 2021 funding round are open from Wednesday 4th August and close on Monday 4th October.

“Age friendly Fund” was chosen as the new name for Community Connects, to better reflect a commitment to building better age friendly communities across New Zealand.

For more information, including eligibility criteria, go to the SuperSeniors website.


How to avoid Listeria


If you are an older person with low immunity, you may be at risk of catching the foodborne illness, listeriosis.

Listeria is a foodborne bacterium that can make you unwell with symptoms like stomach pains, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and can potentially be fatal.

Some foods are more likely to be contaminated because of the way they’re stored, handled or prepared, so those who are at risk should avoid eating them.

So, what can you do to protect yourself from getting sick? 

“If you have low immunity, it’s important you think about what you are buying and eating,” New Zealand Food Safety Director of Food Regulation Dr Paul Dansted says.

“Potentially unsafe foods for older people with chronic illness or low immunity include uncooked, smoked or ready to eat seafood, cold pre-cooked chicken, processed meats, pâté, hummus, pre-made salads and coleslaw, soft serve ice cream, unpasteurised milk and soft cheeses.

“The best way to avoid Listeria is to eat freshly cooked or freshly prepared food.”

Dr Dansted adds at-risk people should store and prepare food safely to avoid getting sick.

“When you’re buying food, always check the ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates. Make sure chilled foods are cold to the touch and take food home straight after purchase.

“When you get home, transfer chilled foods into the fridge. When you open a packet of food the date mark no longer applies – most food opened and stored in the fridge should be used within two days. The same applies to leftovers or cooked food stored in the fridge.

“And remember to always wash and dry your hands thoroughly before and after preparing food.”

If you’d like to find out more, please read New Zealand Food Safety’s guide: Food safety when you have low immunity available on the Ministry for Primary Industries website

If you are unsure if you have low immunity or have questions, speak to your doctor or other healthcare professional.


Warmer Kiwi Homes 2021


The Warmer Kiwi Homes grants for insulation and an efficient heater are available for lower-income homeowners.

Grants cover 80% of the cost of ceiling and underfloor insulation and/or an efficient heater. Heater grants are capped at $3,000.

EECA’s Warmer Kiwi Homes Manager Eddie Thompson says a warm, dry home is especially important New Zealanders who may spend more time at home.

“There’s evidence showing a warm and insulated home helps protect you from respiratory disease and reduces hospitalisations and the number of GP visits.”

Warmer Kiwi Homes received an additional $120 million in the recent Budget to extend the programme to 30 June 2023. This additional funding will allow an estimated additional 47,000 insulation or efficient heater retrofits to be completed under the programme.

To find out if you are eligible free call 0800 749 782 or complete the easy online tool on the EECA website.


The State of Caring Survey


The State of Caring survey has been released and is encouraging feedback from all carers across Aotearoa. 

All of us can expect to give or receive family care during our lives. The (often unpaid) work of family carers has an annual economic value of at least $10 billion. Two thirds of family carers are women, most of whom are middle aged or older, and almost 90% of carers are of workforce age (15 to 64).

More than 430,000 New Zealanders care for friends and whānau who are unwell or have a health condition or disability.

Although there is a significant population of carers, they are often invisible in decision-making that affects them. National peak body Carers NZ and the Carers Alliance, a coalition of 50 national not-for-profits, have launched the survey and want to learn more about the country's family, whānau, and aiga carers.

"We plan for it to become an annual survey so we can learn as much as possible about carers, their own wellbeing, and how caring might affect their life choices, health, employment, and life opportunities," says Carers NZ CEO and Alliance Secretariat Laurie Hilsgen.

"What is learned can help to shape actions for New Zealand's Mahi Aroha Carers' Strategy and get a better insight into how carers are faring." 

Anyone who is caring for someone in their family, whānau or aiga is welcome to complete the online survey and share it with other carers in their communities.

Free info-packs for carers can be requested by phoning 0800 777 797 or emailing

Learn more about Carers NZ and available information and support for carers at


A message from the Banking Ombudsman


Nicola Sladden, Banking Ombudsman

 This year, the Banking Ombudsman Scheme has heard from a number of older people concerned about access to banks and bank accounts, particularly as branches have closed and cheques have been phased out.

There are many other options for banking, including online, by phone, mobile apps, and by direct debits or automatic payments. If you need help, we advise the best place to start is by contacting your bank and asking what support they are providing.

Banks are committed to helping to meet the needs of older people, and people with disabilities. Most banks have a priority phone service for older customers.

Nicola Sladden, Banking Ombudsman

Some have a dedicated phone number, and others will automatically direct your call to the priority service when you call their main 0800 number. Banks are also offering a range of information and education services about banking online and on mobile phones.

It’s common for people to have shared financial responsibilities and it’s important to notify the bank as soon as possible after someone passes away. Signing authorities and powers of attorney will no longer be valid, and a bank can only take instructions from someone authorised to act on behalf of the estate. Banks will freeze the customer’s individual accounts, and joint accounts will usually be transferred to the remaining account holder’s name. 

The loss of a loved one is a really difficult time, and banking challenges are the last thing people need. We received over 70 complaints last year about deceased customer accounts, and some related to misunderstandings about who can access accounts and how.

Complications can arise when one person is the account holder and the other a signatory. Signatories will no longer have the ability to operate the account. If you have questions about your banking arrangements, contact your bank to ask about who owns, and who can access the account. If there is debt on the account, consider seeking guidance and making arrangements for that now to avoid future complications.

See our quick guides on deceased customer accounts and account mandates on our website:  


Residential care subsidy changes


On 1 July 2021, some key annual changes to the Residential Care Subsidy came into effect.

The Residential Care Subsidy provides financial assistance towards the cost of long-term residential care in a hospital or rest home.

If you need long-term residential care in a rest home, you may qualify for the Residential Care Subsidy.

The asset thresholds have increased to:

  • $239,930 for a single person
  • $239,930 for a couple where both partners are in long-term residential care
  • $239,930 for a couple where one person is in long-term residential care, including the value of their house and car
  • $131,391 for a couple where one partner is in long-term residential care, not including the combined value of their house and car (the house is only exempt when it is the main place where your partner who is not in care, or a dependent child, lives).

The income-from-assets exemptions have increased to:

  • $1,042 for a single person
  • $2,083 for a couple who are both in long-term residential care
  • $3,125 for a couple where one partner is in long-term residential care.

Your assets and income will be assessed by Work and Income. All other eligibility is assessed by the Ministry of Health.

To find out if you are eligible, go to the Work and Income website at


Bee Card


The Bee Card is the new bus card used in nine regions across Aotearoa, making bus travel cheaper.

If you’re travelling to a region that uses the Bee Card, you can order your card from the official website ( before you go. Bee cards cost $5 when ordered online or collected in person (regional variations may apply). If you order online, it will be posted to you free of charge.

These regions are Northland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Manawatū-Whanganui, Hawke’s Bay, Nelson, Otago and Invercargill.

Bee Card and SuperGold

To benefit from the national SuperGold travel concession, you will need to register your new card online and load your SuperGold details on to your account.

If you’re unsure of how to do this online, contact the council in the region to ask for assistance. 

Using your Bee Card

Once you have loaded your SuperGold details onto your Bee Card, you are ready to travel with your concession. Instead of showing your SuperGold card to a bus driver, you must now use your Bee Card just like all other passengers, to tag on and tag off the bus using the card readers by the door.

When you tag on your Bee Card, the readers will recognise you’re a SuperGold customer and you’ll travel free outside of peak hours. Remember that, no matter what time you are travelling, you should always tag off.

You’ll still need to carry your SuperGold Card with you when using the bus, as proof of your eligibility for SuperGold concessions.

Check out the website to order and activate your card or for further information about how it works and a general FAQs: or contact the council in charge of the bus network in that region.


Unsupported Child's Benefit


Are you a caregiver looking after another person’s child? The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) is making it easier to get Orphan’s Benefit/Unsupported Child’s Benefit. 

The eligibility criteria have been updated. To be eligible for one of these benefits, you must be responsible for the day-to-day care of a child whose parents are unable to support them – there is no longer a minimum period you’ll be expected to support the child for.

Caregiving arrangements could be for a short-term, unknown or uncertain period and might include:

  • a caregiver looking after a child while the child’s parent is in prison for less than 12 months and there is no other parent willing or able to provide day-to-day care for the child
  • a caregiver looking after a child for a short or uncertain period, until another caregiver, for example a family member, can take over responsibility for the child’s day-to-day care.

Benefits include a Clothing Allowance, school-related costs, and an Establishment grant. The Establishment grant is paid automatically when you first get Unsupported Child's Benefit or Orphan's Benefit. This is a once only payment of $350 for each child you're caring for. This money helps you buy things like a bed, bedding, and clothing. You won't be taxed on this money, and you won't have to pay it back.

This benefit isn’t income tested for the carer and does not affect NZ Superannuation payments.

Find out more at 


SuperGold Card special offers

Check out the latest special offers for our super seniors through the SuperGold website.

Disclaimer: The SuperGold Card programme enables independent businesses to offer discounts and benefits to older New Zealanders. The Ministry of Social Development is not associated with any seller and does not guarantee any representation made by a seller and any future dispute will need to be taken up with the seller not the Ministry of Social Development. Offers range in size and nature and cardholders should always check to see if a better offer is available locally.

New Zealand Government
Office for Seniors
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