This was a special blog written for Adult Learning Australia
My current role as Commissioner for Senior Victorians is the most important role I’ve ever undertaken.
My career pathway was varied. As I reached the end of my time at secondary school, I had no idea what career I wanted to do, and so at 18 years old, I rode my motorbike to Sydney and lived there for two years.
During that time, I had the chance to try different types of work and stumbled on the profession of youth work. My passion was ignited, and I completed my youth work course a few years later. This set me on a career that focussed on people, from youth work to community education, a decade in the trade union movement before becoming a CEO and running peak bodies in children’s services and later in aged care.
When I reflect on my own career pathway, there is a strong connection throughout to learning, education, study and research. I have been so lucky to have the opportunity to travel both in Australia and overseas too. It is so inspiring to travel to a new place, explore the history, talk to the locals and discover something more about the world in which we live.
The spirit of ‘discovery’ and ‘exploration’ are in my view key elements in the quest for a successful and fulfilling experience of ageing, of growing older.
In my current role, I have the absolute pleasure of being able to spend lots of my time out in the community, talking with, and listening to, the enormously diverse experiences of senior Victorians. In these conversations two things stand out to me.
Firstly, we are never too old to learn. There are just so many ways that senior Victorians can explore and discover, often within our own local communities, neighbourhoods or regions. Just think about how many neighbourhood houses there are, learn locals, libraries or museums where we can continue to broaden our knowledge and understanding as we age. There are key institutions that provide adult education, TAFE colleges and many other opportunities to continue to learn.
My own auntie, as she approached 80 years of age, completed a Year 12 English subject because she had never had the chance to finish secondary school. How inspiring is her story and those of so many others who keep learning and re-discovering as they age.
Secondly, I have learnt from the stories of so many older people just how important it is to remain socially connected. The international literature now clearly tells us that isolation and loneliness can be killer experiences that take years off our lives. So many of our opportunities to continue to grow and learn involving connecting with other people. I don’t think it is any accident that over the last twenty years one of the rapidly growing grass roots movements is the University of the Third Age (U3A). I hear great stories about older people who join a U3A because they are inspired to learn a language like French. Or they want to understand more about history. Or join a book club. There are Neighbourhood Houses, Men’s Sheds, Life Activity Clubs and so many community groups and organisations who provide wonderful opportunities to build and maintain social connections – but I don’t have the space to list them here. Your local library or local council are great places to start to find out what’s on and available in your local community
So many older people are an inspiration to us all as they continue to learn, seek to better understand our world and explore life right throughout their seniors years!
And so, what will inspire you to try something different? For me, I’ve recently discovered Listening Books via the Borrowbox App that is available in many local libraries. I now combine listening to books with my local walks around the Maribyrnong River.
Let’s put to bed the myth “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. So, what will inspire you to ‘discover’ and ‘explore’ as you age?
Commissioner for Senior Victorians
Gerard Mansour is a passionate advocate for the rights and needs of older Victorians, with more than 25 years’ experience working in the aged and wider community service sectors. He has contributed significantly to policy development and implementation of services assisting senior Victorians.