How our nerves about retirement have subsided into adventure

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John: I was a primary school principal until I retired at 70. I spent the last 21 years of my career at Mont Albert, in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. I loved my job so much, and the contact with the children. In the lead-up to retiring nine years ago, I was a bit nervous. I wondered if I would find enough activities to keep me occupied. At first it was quite a shock. I used to be at my desk at 7.30 every morning and work quite a long day. All of a sudden you wake up and think, “What’s on today?” But I’ve been able to find plenty of things to occupy myself. Retirement is what you make of it. I do believe you’ve got to go out and join various groups and keep yourself active.

I’m up at 7am and take my wife breakfast in bed every morning. We’ve got a very busy diary, I can tell you. We have to check with each other to see if we’re free to meet a friend for lunch.  

We keep ourselves busy being involved with community organisations. I’m still a member of Rotary, and it runs a rummage shop where I volunteer. We also belong to Probus, a community association for retirees. I sometimes meet with former colleagues for a meal and a chat. And I play lawn bowls. We travel every year, and always go to Queensland for the winter months. We enjoy the theatre and often visit friends and relatives. I’m a mad keen AFL fan, and I attend all the Geelong Cats’ games.

I’m a National Trust member and have a particular interest in Australian history. I play tennis once a week. I also like my gardening. We do quite a bit of child-minding – we have three married daughters and six grandchildren – which we absolutely enjoy.

It’s great to have grandchildren because they keep you fresh in outlook.  We’ve been overseas every year since I’ve retired. We’ve been very fortunate, I’d say. Our eldest daughter is 50 this year and we are all going to Zambia – she used to work at a beautiful resort on the banks of the Zambesi River near Livingstone, and we’re all going back to this resort to celebrate her birthday. We can’t complain, can we? We have few complaints to make at all!

Ann: I used to be up very early as I ran my own gourmet food store with nine part-time staff. And if I got home at quarter to eight it was an early night for me, so I found it very hard to cope with the change that came with retiring. I worked six days a week, sometimes seven. I’m finding that sleeping in is a real luxury now.  My first day not working, I lay in bed wide awake. That’s when I started to take walks. I’d walk for two hours, thinking, “I need to be doing something.” It got to the stage where I’d clean the house from top to bottom just so I had something to do.

We had a big house and I said to John one day, “I’m sick of this!” We also had quite a large garden and I’d spend three days a week gardening and then John would spend all weekend cutting lawns and hedges. So one day I decided we’d sell. He was horrified! It was a big challenge to sell the family home and move on. I didn’t want to be in a complex but we found a unit on one level with a little garden. You’ll find most units are two storeys, which you don’t want when you are getting old. 

And we wanted to stay in our area, because we’ve been here for 53 years.

I was probably more nervous about John retiring, particularly having him home all day! He’d say, “So what are we doing today?” and I’d say: “Shopping – you’re not coming with me. If you want to come, you can do it.”

I then got into embroidery with a group of friends – we sit and sew and gossip. We solve all the problems in the world! And I love reading. I do a lot of reading. I still love cooking. I try to do a new recipe every week. 

We don’t have a lot and if we eat out we’ll just have a casual meal locally. I’d rather put money into travel than going out to expensive restaurants like a lot of our friends do. We’ve been to South America, North America, Africa, Japan, Morocco, Norway, London and through Europe.

We’re still pretty fit, so we’re able to do a lot of walking. Good health plays a big part – without it, we wouldn’t be able to do what we are doing. 

As told to Jackie Dent

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