There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth about the problems Australia faces as a result of our aging population.
But too often senior members of our community are characterised as a burden when it’s more likely grandma or grandpa are holding things together for the busy modern family.
Almost half of all children who regularly attend some kind of child care are actually looked after by their grandparents, according to ABS statistics. People aged over 65 also do the bulk of looking after people with disabilities.
And, if they are not helping out their own family members, they are helping others, with 35 per cent of people aged between 65 and 85 working as volunteers.
In fact at the last census more than 1 in 10 Australians aged over 65 were working, with 15 per cent of men and almost 7 per cent of women in the 70 – 74 age group employed.
To celebrate Seniors Festival (October 5 – 12) let’s meet a couple of older folk who continue to seize the day.
Ian and Marie Morden have the very world at their fingertips.
As the owners of MapWorks, one of only two businesses in Melbourne dedicated to all things cartological, they’re also whizzes on geography quizzes.
It is a second career for the couple, who opened their North Essendon shop more than two decades ago to keep active in retirement.
Ian, a former corporate personal manager, and his primary school teacher wife, had travelled extensively and also enjoyed a shared interest in antique maps.
“We started out framing old maps and selling them at family history expos,” Marie, 81, reveals.
“Then we got a little shop and as soon as we started putting maps in the window people started coming in and saying, ‘I want to go to the Cotswolds or wherever, have you got a map’?”
Today MapWorks stocks a full range of Michelin maps as well as family history maps, topographical and gold-prospecting maps.
There’s also what Marie, 81, calls the “huntin’, shootin’ fishin’ section” and off-the-beaten-track guides for the growing number of four-wheel drivers.
“It’s a wonderful business to be in,” Marie says.
“They are all going somewhere, planning something.”
The energetic 84-year-old is something of guru, having volunteered at the Essendon Citizens Advice Bureau for more than 30 years.
It’s a role that’s changed dramatically during the intervening decades, reflecting increasing numbers of people falling below the poverty line.
“When I first started you’d get people coming in on their way home from bingo that might just want a bit of information about this or that,” Mrs Cartwright reveals.
“Now there are a lot more people coming in wanting financial relief because they just can’t make ends meet.
“Increased utilities have caused an awful lot of angst.”
Mrs Cartwright and her fellow CAB volunteers help broker extended payment plans for clients as well as providing $50 vouchers for food, clothing, petrol and parcels of donated food distributed by Helping Hands.
It’s a tough gig, but Mrs Cartwright, a recipient of a Spirit of Moonee Valley award for outstanding community service, finds it rewarding and has no plans to retire any time soon.
“We all need a reason to get out of bed in the morning,” she laughs.
Ain’t that the truth.