Reviewed by Dr Kathleen Huxley
This small and highly readable book, edited by Joy Noble and David Bennett, is composed of a collection of personal anecdotes and stories of living a full life after 60. The editors themselves are 60 so have an intimate insight into the issues and are aiming ‘to live life to the full’. The compilation comes with a foreword and endorsement from Ian Yates the Chief Executive of COTA Australia which ‘represents the interests of older people to a wide range of government and community organisations’. Ian describes this book as being ‘about people who are doing things they didn’t expect to be doing, and it’s working well for them…it’s about people living their lives in much the same way as they always have, but now with more insight – wisdom even – leading to a deeper meaning and contribution’. Yates believes we are seeing a paradigm shift from the traditional view of what people’s lives looked like when they were over sixty and ‘on the slippery slope’ to the actual lives many people are leading today which include, amongst other things learning, contribution, challenge and joy.
Composed of twenty-five individuals ‘stories’ with a variety of titles ranging from ‘Busily taking it slowly’, Seventy-Two and still going Strong ‘and ‘The first Sixty Years are a Warm Up’ to ‘The Third Stage’, this is a collection of short personal accounts. The reports describe diverse experiences going from restoring a historic ruin, singing in Sydney Opera House, searching for opals, volunteering in a museum or bike riding in the French Alps, and many more, and they illustrate the incredible range of potential opportunities that are out there for older people.
Particular narratives expound the theory that in later life, despite maybe having travelled extensively in a working life, the art of travel takes on an even more prominent role. A quote from the Travel Editor of the Weekend Australian tells us that ‘travel helps us to celebrate differentness and it tests our level of tolerance and self-awareness. By giving you greater understanding, travel expands your brain’. Jonathan Anderson who, in his contribution to this book entitled ‘Travel and Technology are good for our brains in the last third of our lives’ feels that its ‘not the amount of travel that is critical but the ways travel helps keep one’s brain active and invigorated’. His travels give him great delight when they enable him ‘to do or experience’ completely out of the ordinary encounters and occurrences. He considers embracing new technologies keeps us in touch with the younger generation whilst shaping the way we receive and work with information.
As Gavin Scrimegeour, a retired secondary teacher, discloses to us in his ‘Past, Present and Future’ a love of history has revealed to him that ‘it is often the extraordinary experiences of ordinary people caught up in events of their own or other making’, and this interests him greatly. With increased time on his hands the pursuit of remarkable ‘stories’ has allowed him to indulge himself in tracing his family history and conducting family history projects that allow him to record memories of ancestors for their descendants. He feels connections to his previous working life have helped him to move into his retired life but have by no means been the essential factor ‘in making a transition to retirement’.
This is a book which, whilst only taking a couple of hours or so to read, has an overriding and upbeat message for anyone approaching their sixties and beyond with trepidation. It expounds the idea that life is there to be lived to its fullest regardless of advancing years and continued learning experiences are not the property of the young as these accounts exemplify. Acknowledging that an active interesting life is available to all if they are open to new encounters, opportunities and experiences is an uplifting idea that deserves promulgation!
By Dr Kathleen Huxley
AUD$29.95; 144 pages