The last two years as your president have been a time of very real learning for me, even though I have had quite a few years’ experience on the Federation board.
Part of what I have learned, and I know I say this often, is that the positives of the job far outweigh the negatives and I will always be grateful. I will never forget the kindness and respect I have received from most members and the many other people I meet in this job.
Through the tough times with covid and the many other anxieties that some of our older people face, this concern for and assistance to others, by members of Grey Power associations throughout New Zealand, has shone through.
Also, my family, including my three youngest Caribbean/Kiwi grandsons and their parents (pictured here), have understood my passion for Grey Power and the time commitment needed to lead our wonderful organisation. And of course, my husband Tony deserves a special accolade for all his support especially as my personal self-appointed telephone receptionist.
I guess, however, nothing is perfect and one of the downsides for me and your very hard-working board is the impression that some members have that it is the board’s job to arbitrate, to decide who is right or who is wrong in internal association committee conflict. Because the board refuses to take sides its members can be subject to some rather horrible abuse.
We do need to remember, however, that Grey Power was set up as a federation, not a society with branches. This means that the federation is the parent or umbrella organisation formed by associations, as incorporated societies; and within this each association retains the control of its own internal affairs.
Therefore, even if the board receives allegations of internal association misdemeanours or conflict, its involvement is limited to mediation or, in very serious circumstances, to expelling an association from the Federation if constitutional rules set for us by Grey Power associations at the federation annual general meetings are broken.
Another important point is that association committee people are elected by individual associations at their annual general meetings – the federation board plays no part at all in this. Consequently, it follows that the same board cannot interfere in processes of which they have no part.
Let’s just mention our Federation annual general meeting held in Wellington at the end of July. I felt very positive vibes at this event, including the formal dinner, and it was great to speak to so many of our association delegates.
It was also my pleasure to present life membership certificates to Graeme and Cynthia Adams and Bern Sommerfeld for their huge support for Grey Power. Graeme, supported by Cynthia, was the Federation treasurer for many years and Bern has been a board member and has also worked off-board as our energy National Advisory Group chair.
Thank you to the three of you for all your hard and valuable work for the Grey Power Federation.
Likewise, we offer our grateful thanks to Roy Reid for all his involvement on the Federation board over many years. He has held multiple positions including that of national president.
Roy did not put his name forward again as national treasurer this year and we wish him and his wife Merle a more peaceful and relaxed lifestyle now.
To bring you up-to-date, Bill Rayner from Auckland takes up the treasurer’s position and I was re-elected unopposed as president.
Unfortunately, the Minister of Seniors was unable to address our AGM in person but she was present via video. It was really pleasing to note that – although the advocacy team have felt their lobby efforts were unnoticed – Minster Verrall commented, among other issues raised, that she had serious concerns that some seniors were not receiving the support they were entitled to including adequate home care.
She said: “I take these concerns very seriously … I have asked HealthNZ officers to work with Grey Power and others on new models of Home and Community care – it will take time but we have to get this right.”
For those of you who were unable to attend the AGM I would like to repeat my main message to the attendees which was based on a quote from Anwar Sadat, a past President of Egypt. He said, “There can be hope only for a society which acts as one big family, and not as many separate ones.”
This applies to Grey Power – my dream is that we will be one big family working together democratically for the good of all of us. All association members can play a part in the organisation if they wish to.
And I hope that under our vision, mission and values which are to be the voice of all older New Zealanders, that we use positive advocacy to enhance the sustainable wellbeing of all older people in New Zealand. I also hope its basis of compassion, respect for others, integrity and diversity resonates with us all.
Finally, I am often asked what my ideas moving forward for the next year are. I will be requesting the board members assist me to provide inductions for new board members, new association office holders and Zone Directors and help us have a more planned approach to our work, be proactive rather than reactive.
Also important is having more focus on what members tell us are Grey Power concerns, a more specific emphasis on helping associations increase membership and improved communication with more attention to involving our members in Federation lobby work.
Within this, our foremost aim must be to convince government and others of the value and worth of older people; That all the older persons’ United Nations and World Health Organisation principles and relevant New Zealand strategies are worth much more than the paper they are written on.
However, we do need to remember that the wheels of change take time to turn but it won’t happen if we don’t try.
Each and every one of you please take care as we head into spring and for some of us hopefully much better weather.
President, Jan Pentecost
PS: I am aware that sometimes I do not reply to phone calls and emails. It is easy for some to drop off my list unintentionally but if I haven’t responded please contact me again.