The Benefits of village life for older mĀori

By AARP International  |  Photos by Marco Javier


For Gayle Wineera, 64, the sense of community is what sets her neighborhood apart.  Especially during the  height of the pandemic, she appreciated the bonds of her close-knit village. “We looked after one another really well with the help of the outsiders. It was really good, and it’s carried on even after,” she says.

Wineera is living in one of 14 units in Moa Crescent Kaumātua Village in Hamilton, New Zealand. Developed by nonprofit organization Te Rūnanga o Kirikiriroa from 2012 to 2014, Moa Crescent is a collection of affordable one and two-bedroom homes for kaumātua, or seniors. All 19 residents are over age 60, with the majority of them identifying as Māori. The Rauawaawa Kaumātua Charitable Trust provides “wrap around” health and social services to ensure that the seniors are able to age in place and that those with disabilities have proper support. have proper support.

The Trust offers transportation services to and from their facility, where seniors can participate in a wealth of activities, from exercise classes to health seminars. Many of the residents go multiple times a week and look forward to gathering with other kaumātua from the Trust’s 700-person membership. During COVID-19 lockdowns, the organization delivered food and necessities to residents.

Moa Crescent was designed to replicate the concept of an urban papakāinga, which are Māori housing developments on ancestral whenua, or land. Shared gathering spaces and an emphasis on communal living helps keep isolation at bay and fosters greater resilience. As resident Daisy Haimona, 73, affirms, “It’s like having one big family.” Despite having a huge clan of her own (including 6 children and 36 grandchildren), it is her Moa Crescent family she relies on every day.

The kaumātua housing played a key role in Hamilton’s 2014 acceptance into the WHO Global Network for Age Friendly Cities and Communities. The Rauawaawa Kaumātua Charitable Trust worked with research partner Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities to create a report of best practices for other communities who wish to create similar housing projects. Moa Crescent represents a new approach to housing that meets a growing demand for culturally sensitive, affordable living designed around the needs of older people. ●

“Rauawaawa organizes everything for our health that we need. They take us to our appointments — specialists, hospitals, even our appointments at the doctors.” -Daisy Haimona, 73 

Daisy Haimona, 73

Daisy Haimona’s unit at Moa Crescent Kaumātua Village in Hamilton, New Zealand includes a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and living area.

Marilene Kingi, 70, pictured in her home with Rauawaawa community health workers Huhana Wilson and Pernell Pakau, has lived at Moa Crescent since 2014.

Gayle Wineera, 64, moved into Moa Crescent after her husband (pictured with her, top right) had a stroke. Previously, the couple lived in Taranaki, a region on the west coast of the North Island, but relocated to Hamilton to be closer to his medical care.