After what seemed like an endless year, I finally made the trip to Noosa, Queensland in early March.
It was sad this time. My three aunts who moved from Sydney almost 30 years ago are no longer with us. My dear aunt Margaret and singing partner of the ’70s, was the last to pass away in August last year. I usually stay with my uncle-in-law Hans (he married Margaret’s sister Poppy), and he lives in a retirement village.
Hans and I get on well. He loves my cooking, supports the Sydney Swans (only when they’re not playing against the Brisbane Lions!), and we laugh a lot. This time, I bought him a smartphone as I thought it was about time he had one. Amazingly he adapted to it quickly, though found it very frustrating at first.
Over the years, I’ve enjoyed long walks along the Noosa River, using the park exercise equipment provided along the way. I especially love the walking tracks in Noosa National Park. There’s also Noosa Heads along popular Hastings Street, with its beautiful riverfront cafés. Sitting there with nothing else to do but sip a cappuccino in a huge mug remains one of my delights.
But my favourite ‘thing’ is to walk around Hans’ village talking to residents. Almost all are retired, though some are professionals over 50 who still work. There are ex-pilots; trauma nurses; doctors; accountants; architects; engineers; software developers and electricians. Each has a story. Their lives, fulfilled or otherwise, contain important lessons we could all learn from.
I ask myself if they could have been happier, wealthier or healthier than they are now. Could we use their experiences while we’re still young to plan how we’d like to live in our retirement?
People in the village can access activities and outings almost every day of the week. The local bus drives them to a choice of shopping centres at least twice a week. The ‘Outlook’ retail centre is within walking distance – with a supermarket, medical centre, hairdresser, butcher, market garden, a delicious bakery brewing beautiful coffee, pies (try the beef and cracked pepper!), croissants, and my favourite: ‘banoffees’ (banana and caramel pies)! To those hosting Friday happy-hours in the village, there’s fish and chips and pizza for delivery and takeaway. Sounds like heaps of fun, doesn’t it?
But as in life, scales can tip the other way. There’s also the heartbreak of often living alone after a partner has passed away, and dealing with illness that may come with age (which really shouldn’t!). Sadly, death may come from chronic disease, depression, or simply ‘giving up’ because of loneliness and finding no-one to talk to or confide in.
Again, I see insidious bad diets taking over – now in the form of pre-cooked meals. It seems preparing raw salads and fresh food is “too much of a bother” when you’re older. It’s such a shame that the motivation just isn’t there. There’s no need to shop for food, spend time in the kitchen, or wash-up after – all you need is one cutlery set. Your time on a comfy armchair or at the computer is so much more appealing.
I saw heaps of these in Noosa and in the village. Remember what I said before about the benefits of WALKING?
But you have a choice. I joined a gym at 68 – I’m now stronger, more stable and feel more alive than ever. So you too can get moving – NOW!!
I also couldn’t also help but notice in cafés everywhere that each person had coffee with an oversized pastry/muffin/scone on their plate. I suggest sharing or keeping the other half for another day. I always have a sandwich bag handy for this. You’ll lose many kilos a year – and besides, the milk in your cappuccino will fill you up anyway!
This is the era of fast food. From an early age, we buy into the “Why-cook-get-takeaway”? philosophy. This inevitably continues into retirement, and is a cause of declining health.
Of course, the first thing I did after I arrived was to stock up on fresh salad vegetables, lemons, grapefruit and my favourite red papaya – all from a marvellous local grocer. I stuck to my morning regime of having my grapefruit and papaya first thing in the morning, before my walk and before breakfast.
The importance of this came home to me holidaying in New York a few years ago. I thought “It’ll only be for a few days, it’s not worth going into a serviced apartment … we’ll just eat out.”
Wrong. After only 2 days of bottled fruit juice, cereal for breakfast, bistro meals and snacking between hop-in-hop-out coach tours, I was tired and irritable. Drinking more tea and coffee didn’t help one bit. I made a firm resolution after that: when I travel I must stay where there’s a kitchen and a supermarket or grocery store nearby.
I now cook without extra salt, sugar or flavour enhancers, and enjoy every morsel. I drink coffee and tea when I feel like it and not because I need energy.
Eating out? Here’s some good advice:
- Have a raw salad.
- Size of meals vary, so ask before you order. If it’s large, share it or take away half.
- Don’t have gravy or thickened sauces with your dish.
- Drink only water – or dilute a lemon-lime and bitters (yes, you may get laughed at!).
- Skip dessert. If it’s simply irresistible, pack it up and have a portion at least 2 hours later.
This may be boring to many, and you might think I’m strange (not seasoned Pearlers, I hope). Isn’t life uncertain? We could all do the right things and still die prematurely! I agree – but I’m prepared to make this prediction regardless: