Central Otago celebrated 75 years of Age Concern supporting and advocating for the elderly last week, with birthday celebrations at St Enoch’s church in Alexandra.

Age Concern was established in 1948 after an article in the Otago Daily Times which, with the assistance of a district nurse, drew attention to the poverty and lack of support for elderly in Dunedin.

Elder abuse response worker and visiting service co-ordinator Toni Velenski said the organisation began operations in Central Otago about 25 years ago.

It runs fitness and fall prevention classes, and social support to help people navigate the health system.

It also runs a buddy system to support elderly people struggling with loneliness.

‘‘Somebody that identifies as being lonely or lacking social supports and connections in the community [gets] matched with a volunteer in the community and we just require one hour a week of support,’’ she said.

Loneliness had significant negative health impacts and research had shown it had similar impacts to a terminal illness, she said.

‘‘We all know, at any age, that human connection is important and vital.’’

Volunteers also provided support of mental health and were able to monitor for signs of elder abuse.

‘‘[We] do our best to help them in any way and if we don’t, we will know who can and will help them.’’

She said about a tenth of people over 65 would be subject to some form of elder abuse. As a response worker, she worked alongside the victim to formulate a plan to deal with the abuse, whatever form it took. The types of elder abuse seen in Central Otago varied hugely, she said.

Age Concern worked with a wide range of agencies to provide solutions to problems facing elderly.

‘‘The biggest concern is around health, transport and housing,’’ she said.

While these concerns were not specific to elderly people, it was hard for them to have a voice in these issues, Ms Velenski said.