(Published by Stuff.co.nz)
She has given more than 45 years of service to gerontology, but a newly recognised dame said the honour is not hers – it’s for the thousands of elderly people she’s served.
Dame Peggy Koopman-Boyden was recognised for services to seniors in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2017.
Dame Peggy was one of two dames named this year – the other was Dame Julie Molloy, recognised for services to governance and the television industry.
But even after more than four decades of service, Dame Peggy is far from retired.
My life has been full of research and talking about policy,” she said.
“I came to the Waikato 25 years ago and haven’t left. I want to make Hamilton the first age-friendly city in the country.”
Dame Peggy, who is also Emeritus Professor at the University of Waikato, said one of the biggest barriers will be getting people to change how the elderly are perceived.
More than 10 per cent of Hamilton’s population is 65 or older, but this is expected to increase to 16 per cent by 2031.
“It’s not just about getting infrastructure in and paved walkways and such, it’s the attitude we have toward the elderly.
“It’s about how we see them. They’re not a burden – that sort of attitude needs to change.”
And if anyone can make this happen, it’s Dame Peggy.
Dame Peggy led major research projects for the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology during the 1990s and 2000s and recently completed a multiyear programme of research on active ageing funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
In 1997, she was appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to the elderly.
And in 2005, she became the founding president of the Waikato branch of the New Zealand Association of Gerontology, a position she held until 2012. She has been a member of the Age Concern Advisory Research Committee since 2010.
She has also been chair of Hamilton City Council’s Older Persons Advisory Panel and now chairs the steering group of Hamilton’s Age Friendly accreditation of the Institute of Healthy Ageing.
Despite the long list of accomplishments, Dame Peggy is only looking forward.
“Oh I’m far from done,” she said.
“For the first four years, I’m required to write a plan or a list of programmes that are age-friendly, so that will keep me busy.”