Volunteer Rosie Finn and her dog Jessie

Rosie Finn OA had a brief fling with retirement before throwing herself into a volunteering role that led her return to paid work where she manages 100 people.

Now in her seventies, Rosie had retired at 65 after a lifetime in community development in Australia and overseas; and a stint as a dental nurse for the Air Force, where she earned an Australia Day award for her heroic actions during Cyclone Tracy.

Free time

‘I was excited about retiring. I thought I would have all this free time and would do all the projects around the house that I wanted to do, and go out for lunches with friends and have a grand old time,’ Rosie says.

But, 12 months in, Rosie could see that retirement wasn’t quite for her.

‘I did most of the things I could: I painted anything that stood still, like the front fence and did other things around the house. But, then I realised the bigger things I wanted to do needed money, like re-carpeting the lounge room ... I had time but then, I didn’t have money.

‘I would book lunches with people but most of my friends are a bit younger than me and are still working and they would cancel or just give me half an hour. Understandable, but it was the highlight of my week! So that didn’t fit the vision I’d had of retirement.’

One-way conversations

Comically she recounts: ‘One day I found myself making our German Shepherd dog a cup of tea in one of those big soup cups and sitting down with her on the floor and having a conversation, which, I have got to say, was one way!’

Rosie finished her tea, called her wife to tell her she really wasn’t ready for retirement, and promptly began volunteering at a not-for-profit organisation three days a week.

‘They realised I had the skills they needed to do locums in their different programs, so I did locums in emergency food relief, no interest loans and the L2P Learn to Drive program. Then a paid position became available in the Victorian Learn to Drive program and I interviewed for it and got the job.’

Road to employment

Rosie now works a four-day week, managing 100 people: 50 young learner drivers and the 50 volunteer mentors who accompany them on the road.

‘The mentors are mostly retirees, so I fitted into that category, and the other element is assisting young people who don’t have any help to get their 120 hours driving experience to get their probationary licence,’ she says.

‘I had worked in the youth sector a lot and I have a teenage daughter, so it was an ideal job for me.

‘When I first went back to four days it was fairly tiring and I was pretty happy to not have to get up early on Fridays, so that took some adjustment, but I’d say I’m well and truly used to it – I’ve been doing that for five years now.’

Rosie has no doubts that finding work can be harder for older people but says volunteering definitely helped her land her paid role.

Interviews for over 50s

‘Because I worked in the community sector, where there is lots of project-based work, I was applying for a new job every few years and I was used to getting an interview at least. Once I was 50, it was quite a bit harder. I didn’t get a response at all for many applications, didn’t get an interview, didn’t even get told – I’d have to chase them. And I’d say that wasn’t my experience before I turned 50.’

Rosie says volunteering is a good option for people who are looking for ways to contribute their skills and experience to the community, and can even be a path to paid work.

Employers are missing out if they discount older workers, she says.

‘I think I have more to offer now than when I was younger.'