Grahame has almost 30 years of experience in being retired and he is a good example of the evolution of retirement activities as your health changes with age. Grahame and Lynne, his wife of 62 years, spent their early retirement years on their hobby farm in the Southern Highlands. More recently, they moved to a smaller home that was easier for them to manage. ‘You’ve got to get involved’, is Grahame’s advice to anyone not working anymore. ‘You hear about it all the time, someone’s got made redundant or he retires today and you’re going to his funeral in 3 months time. They think, “What am I going to do?”, and he sits in a chair all day. When we come down here to the farm, the local Fire Brigade was up the street, you know, bush fireys. I ended up being [volunteer] equipment officer there for over 15 years and then I was president.’ (What’s equipment officer?) ‘Well, looking after all the gear in the trucks and that.’ After the trucks come back from a fire it has to be cleaned and all the equipment set up again. ‘With the equipment, well it was just a case of checking it out, does it still work?’ Local friendships were formed and Grahame’s skills were put to good use.
There came a time when he had to give driving the fire trucks away. He joined the local Community Transport service as a volunteer driver. ‘They’d only just started up here. There was only one woman in the office and they had this crappy old bus, we used our own cars. I was with them for 15 years. I’d pick up a bus load and we’d go down the coast and have a barbecue, other times we’d go into the city or I’d take a bus load down to Goulburn. I was the secretary of the management committee for six years as well. I used to take notes and use a tape recorder to record the meetings and then I’d write a report for our next meeting. But sometimes it was a case of liaising with the council over something.’ After Grahame’s most recent knee replacement he doesn’t drive for community transport anymore but he still uses the service now to attend any medical appointments he can’t get to by himself.
‘It gets back to the same thing, you’ve got to get yourself involved a bit, providing you’re fit enough to do it of course. Well it’s better than vegetating, I suppose, sitting in a chair.’ Grahame is no stranger to health troubles. ‘With the polio, I was 18, I lost the use of my left leg below the knee, I had what they called full foot drop. But I used to walk all over the area, I could walk anywhere. We lived in Hurstville Grove and we got off the train at Allawah because we never had a ticket. There was no staff on Allawah station and then we’d walk cross country, it didn’t worry me then. Years later I eventually went into business and I used to clamber around all the big prime movers and all that sort of caper. Now, I’ve been going to this medical centre for years, I think I’m the only bloke on their computer that’s actually had it [polio], because there is not that many of us around anymore.’ Grahame’s mobility has deteriorated over time. He was taking the wrong cholesterol medication for years which caused further muscle deterioration. ‘If you’ve had polio you should never take these types of statins and I’d been on them for ages. And as far as the doctors were concerned, it was panic stations when they found out.’ Grahame has a good GP now and he shares a story how she called him late one night after she had received Grahame’s urgent blood test results to tell him what he needed to do immediately.
Grahame has been able to adapt his interests throughout his life and he encourages us all to have interests, whatever they may be. He does most of his hobbies at home now because of his health. An example is Grahame’s life long interest in cars and car racing. ‘We’ve been involved with motor vehicles all my life and the kids are the same.’ He took Lynne to the speedway on their first date and he owned a smash repair business during his working life. He tells a story about his son-in-law nicknamed Starsky. ‘Do you remember Starsky and Hutch? It was a TV series. Well, he had his car painted the same way. Every time he went out the front gate the coppas would pull him up. Stood out like a dunny on a desert. I said, “Look, you’re not going to get anywhere until you repaint the car,” so he brought it into the factory, we let him get it all ready and then we painted it dark blue. He never saw a coppa again.’ His early retirement saw him volunteer for the Rural Fire Service, then Community Transport and now Grahame enjoys his model car collections. He has over 400 hundred model cars and other vehicles.
An activity Grahame still enjoys is reading. ‘I read a lot, a hell of a lot. I have three books on the go at once. I’ve got my own library in there. Mostly books on car racing, politics and war history. There’s a lot of books about Vietnam and the Second World War. I could show you books in there that would screw your head up. Oh yeah, I’m a bit of a reader. I subscribe to one magazine which a lot of people wouldn’t like because it’s a bit political, The Spectator. Some of the articles are about England or other countries, and some about Australia. My son says, “God no, its too political for me”. It shows up different things like you never see it on the TV or in the papers.’ (Do you get involved?) ‘No, no, not anymore.’ (Lynne dobs him in that he used to write a lot of letters to politicians.) Grahame’s keen interest in politics comes from a time when government policy had a huge impact on his life. Interest rates were over 17% and repayments on his business became impossible. He lost his business and had to let go of his employees. He keeps a keen eye on politicians and knows a lot of detailed information about the history of Australian politicians and politics.
Another activity Grahame and Lynne do at home is Wasgij. That’s jigsaw backwards. These are complicated jigsaw puzzles where you are not piecing together the picture on the box, but the scene that comes after the picture. You have to find clues in the picture on the box to figure out the scene that you’ll be piecing together. Grahame uses the skills that he has to do what he can. He is not into computers but he can still write and there is nothing wrong with his memory. He used these skills to write his life story. He says that writing his memoirs has been a good exercise for his memory in a few different ways. ‘As you read back over what you’ve written, more things come to you. I would put an asterisk next to the section where it should go and at the end I’d add the new memory. In the end I ended up with quite a few extra memories of things I hadn’t thought about in a long time.’
Grahame is lucky to be getting older with Lynne. They have a daughter and two sons although officially, one of their sons is their nephew who has lived with them since he was 12. Grahame and Lynne are a team and both help each other as they are able to. Lynne, who is 84 years of age, loves to shop. Groceries, antiques or browsing the shopping district, she doesn’t mind. Grahame likes to drive and read books, so between them they do the grocery shopping together. Grahame drives her to the supermarket and he happily reads one of his books until she gets back with the shopping. They also have some help from their kids and extended family. Their son helps with small home repairs and their grandson and his girlfriend vacuum and mop the kitchen floors. Lynne has also been involved with many things in her life such as the Salvation Army and the Berrima Museum.
Grahame’s main advice for us all is to get involved and have interests, whatever they might be. Don’t sit around doing nothing. He is a living example of how we can stay independent and keep using what skills we have as we get older and our health changes.