By Mike Milstein
Work brought Liz Chinnery to Nelson about twenty years ago. Now sixty nine and retired, she says “every day I pull back the curtains, look outside and say yay, another day! Any day is a good day in Nelson.”
"I just keep on keeping on. These are our freedom years, a time to do all the things we want to do without work and family constraints. I spent 46 years in the paid work force. There were lists, time tables, people to be concerned about, and responsibilities at home. Now I’m free. My children are grown up. My grandchildren are a joy, not a responsibility.”
“When I retired I didn’t want to be a consultant or do part time or occasional work. I shut that door. There was a blank for a while and some grief. People who were important to me and shared the work were gone. At first I grieved for my past life. I thought, how will I fill the day? But I was in a new relationship and we created a B and B. It provided some history for us to share and the people we met were a pleasure. The work we did in hosting them helped fill the gap between paid work and where I am now.”
“The other thing was the lack of a circle of friends. I’d lived in Nelson for some time but my work took me out of Nelson, my late husband was not well for some years, and my elderly mother lived with me. So my time in Nelson was focused on family. I’ve developed friendships now and I have more time for them.
“They are part of my motivation to keep on keeping on, but it is more than that. It’s something about being a human being. Something else in me needs to be nurtured. I need to sit quietly, be by myself, listen to music that doesn’t have words, and be in the garden.”
Liz gave a lot of thought to retirement before she moved into it. “My initial focus was on money because I hadn’t been able to accumulate very much. That’s true of many people facing retirement and it is exacerbated by the media hype about saving for retirement. I knew I’d have to manage on less money after I retired so I practiced for a while. I lived on less for a year before retirement. I also thought it’s only money. There are heaps of things one can do that are enjoyable that don’t need a heap of money.
I also thought about what I dreamed when I was very young. I was going to write a book and I’ve now started. I wanted to travel. We’ve been lucky enough to do that. I started to do a family tree and discovered that my great grandmother came to New Zealand from Sweden in 1872.
Liz believes that we have to take care of ourselves to live well. “Exercise, keep things moving. I do Tai Chi. Look after your body and your mind. This means reading widely, which keeps my brain active. I also need to look after my relationships with my husband and family. My son and three grandsons are in England, so that’s a challenge. I have two brothers and two sisters. As we’ve grown older we’ve grown back to the closeness we had as kids. That’s intensely satisfying.”
Liz believes that growing old well means “not being afraid. Be brave about whatever is in front. I’m reasonably intact. With illness that’s harder to do, but you won’t get out of the world alive so you might as well enjoy it!”
Note: This article, which appeared in The Leader, Nelson, NZ, June 25, 2009, summarizes an interview aired by Fresh FM that was conducted by Dr. Annie Henry and sponsored by Age Concern, Nelson. If you want to share your thoughts with CAN or wish to know when interviews will be aired, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.