_Cover photo by Martina Jansen_
What I wish everyone knew about getting older
Member Martina shares how Five Good Friends has changed her life
International Day of Older Persons was 1st October this year. To celebrate, we spoke to one of our Five Good Friends Members, Martina, about what she wished everyone knew about getting older. She also told us about how Five Good Friends has changed the way she lives and how she sees herself.
Martina is kind, funny and hopeful for the future. We hope you enjoy her story.
Facing the empty nest syndrome
I worked full time until I became a mother at the age of 36. Unfortunately, I had to ask my son’s father to leave shortly after his birth, so was on my own with my son throughout his upbringing.
My son left home seven years ago and, since that time, I've been coming to terms with the empty nest syndrome, in conjunction with facing the issue of ageing.
I think for many of us as parents, we are so caught up with our children's lives and activities that our lives become almost inseparable from theirs, at least until their teens.
My son has a big boxing and martial arts gym here in Sydney, as well as a boxing equipment making business in Thailand. He spends a lot of time overseas so I don’t see him as often as I’d like. Even when he's here on home turf, he's simply too busy.
I didn't give any thought to the time when my son would move away, and had never contemplated the issue of ageing. I've always been mentally very active, and the ageing process seemed to creep up unannounced. It has been a very difficult process for me because, for the first time in my life, there has been a complete lack of a sense of purpose. I no longer feel part of mainstream society, and, in conjunction with my son leaving my life, this has led to ongoing depression and a feeling of futility.
My first experience of getting some home care help
After discovering I was eligible for a Home Care Package, I joined up with another provider. The staff were absolutely delightful but, long term, it was an unsuccessful pairing because of the tradespeople whom they referred to me. I felt very distinctly that, because of my age, that particular provider considered it unnecessary to refer truly qualified or experienced workers to me. There were some truly outrageous experiences! I have also discovered that, once we reach a certain age, instead of being greeted by, “Hi Martina, how are you,” younger people are often inclined to say, “How are we today, dear?” It's very patronising and a form of ageism. Many speak to us as though we're senile - as though we’ve already begun the long and laborious slide into our dotage.
How I found Five Good Friends
I found Five Good Friends through Facebook and, from that very first phone call, I was immensely impressed. Every person I’ve spoken to has been an absolute treasure.
Helen was assigned as my Care Coordinator, and she found the ideal Helper for me. When I found out the young lady who’d been assigned to me was Brazilian, I could not believe my good fortune, as I had studied Portuguese at Uni, and had lived for six months in Brazil. She is able to assist with light domestic duties, shopping, taking me to appointments and the likes, but at this time in my life, what I most need is simply her company.
How my life has changed
My Care Coordinator, Helen, is simply out of this world. We had an instantaneous rapport, and she has the most fabulous sense of humour.
After getting to know her for some time, she said to me one morning, “What are you doing with your life? Why aren't you out there? Making a difference to the lives of others? You have the skills, the work experience. You're not ready for this way of life, being at home with little connection to the outside world. You shouldn't be living this way.”
Her words were invaluable to me. To think that another human being, and especially somebody close to my age, would acknowledge that I shouldn't be living as I am. So very many of us have become desperately lonely and socially isolated, for all sorts of reasons. And yet so many of us still have so much that we could contribute.
Because of Helen's faith in me, and her ongoing encouragement, I’m going to re-enter the workforce. And that will mean being back in the mainstream, and having a sense of belonging once again.
That will enable me to make some money and travel. I absolutely must do that again! I do not want to be taking my last breaths on this earth, and wishing that I truly had followed my heart.
I also do what is largely floral photography, and am currently having some of my works framed in preparation for an exhibition.
Helen, my remarkable Care Coordinator, has given me so much of my confidence back. She has really turned my entire life around, and changed the way I view my future.
It’s a fairly empty existence if you don’t have anyone to share it with. Friendship is the basis of our sanity and our health. What it comes down to is the company of other people, and that’s what Five Good Friends has given me.
Would you like to join us at Five Good Friends? Please get in touch with us on 1300 787 581. We are always happy to talk to you.
Learn more: What you need to know about ageing well