Too happily busy in retirement to think about getting old

Maureen Fontana in her garden.

When Maureen Fontana retired at 74 from her job as a carer in the disability sector she felt she was far too young to be “sitting at home doing nothing” and so she applied to be a community visitor for the Office of the Public Advocate.

These days the 84-year-old mother of 10, grandmother of 18 and great-grandmother of 10 spends a lot of her time as a volunteer regional convenor and senior community visitor for the Office of the Public Advocate. Her role includes visiting people with disabilities who live in group homes, writing reports, attending meetings and training new volunteer community visitors in ensuring the residents are receiving quality care, their human rights are being upheld and they remain free from abuse, neglect and exploitation.

It was in this role as a volunteer that Maureen was a finalist in the Leadership category in the 2017 Premier’s Volunteer Champions Awards.

I loved my job working in the disability sector and when I retired I just knew I needed something to do, she says. I had always had such a busy life and I wanted to keep my mind occupied and also give something back to the community. I didn’t want to retire and so I knew I needed more from life when I retired.

But Maureen believes she gets back a lot more than she gives.

It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to make a difference. It’s stimulating my mind the whole time, and I love the work, she says. It keeps me active in both mind and body and that in turn keeps me healthy and young. I never think about my age and when another year comes around I think: ‘Oh I’m a year older’.

At every age it’s important to be active and involved, but it’s even more important the older you get, not only does volunteering keep you active and healthy both physically and mentally – it’s a great opportunity to help people, to make a difference and to use your wisdom and life experience.

Maureen says that with a large family there is always something happening, but she also likes to do her own thing in maintaining her independence. She lives in a retirement village, grows her own vegetables, maintains a healthy diet and is very close with her family and loves time with them.

I am very fulfilled and it’s a really happy time of my life – I still drive my car, I still write reports, I still get out and about with friends and family – I find life is just great, actually it’s wonderful. I don’t feel anywhere near my age.

Advice to people turning 80?

Stay active, stay involved in your community, join groups, volunteer if you can, and maintain a healthy diet, Maureen advises.