21st century citizenship - a people-focused approach

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   Image credit: Carol Wu

Just as digital technology connects the planet, population pressures and climate change increasingly threaten its future. In this context, it can be argued that the approaches we must adopt to living in this century challenge us to be adaptive, responsive and engaged citizens with less reliance on welfare and state support to provide the architecture of the community around us. Massey researchers are seeking to resolve the impact of this emergent new model in the social dynamic and provide meaningful contributions to inform the debate and offer people-focused research to support developments that will enrich our future lives.

To address this complex multi-elemental problem we have marshaled expertise spanning a range of disciplines including those which address access to digital infrastructures, knowledge transfer and translation, population and migration dynamics, health and ageing, communication studies and climate change, to name but a few. Massey advocates an interdisciplinary model as the best way to understand the causes of and influences of external pressures on societal challenges across multiple sectors.

In New Zealand as elsewhere, a fast-growing ageing population presents major health and economic implications with some predicting a population to rise to five million by 2031. Massey’s award-winning longitudinal study of ageing investigating the contributing factors of quality of life as one ages involves 4000 New Zealanders aged between 50 and 85. In collaboration with similar studies around the world, our researchers are working to identify what contributes to successful ageing, comparing data to identify international trends. These findings have immediate relevance to local researchers and policy makers.

Immigrants represent another vital strand in the fabric of New Zealand’s future. Yet another award-winning Massey study has explored immigrant economic success and work experience whilst also reviewing the contributions made to community, culture and social development. This study provides a key resource for many agencies developing public policy to ensure positive outcomes for new migrants and for New Zealand.

In an ageing society, mobility really counts. A groundbreaking Massey study assessed the levels of anxiety and fear among older adults when driving motor vehicles. The findings are enriching our understanding of the relationship between mobility and independence. The international trend towards growing numbers of older shift workers pose possible occupational health and safety risks which are not yet fully understood in work place design; this is another interesting area of research.

Mental illness, including depression, is part of the wave of chronic illnesses affecting today’s population. Massey researchers successfully adapted a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) programme for adult Maori suffering from depression. Building on traditional treatment approaches, their methodology integrated such concepts as whakatauki, whanaungatanga, whanau involvement, and whakapapa into the care programme.

The drinking culture in New Zealand is seen as a significant issue causing harm to many facets of society. Massey researchers have undertaken a longitudinal study evaluating changes in alcohol policy to better understand the societal influences in relation to alcohol use. A further study is addressing the impact of new social networking technologies like Facebook on young New Zealanders (and others, including marketers) as part of drinking practices and drinking cultures.

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