This post is sponsored by Bupa.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might have noticed that I think the sun rises and sets in my mother Barb. She was that firm but fair single mum when my big brother and I were growing up, and now she’s a totally soft and squishy grandmother to my kids, and a wonderful friend to me. Barb has lived alone for a long time, and she has that lifestyle nailed, so when Bupa asked if I’d like to interview her for their #CaringForOurGreats series, I jumped at the chance.
Here’s Barb and me talking about staying connected to your community when you live alone.
Carolyn: Let’s talk about how long you’ve lived alone for. How long has it been?
Barb: About 40 years.
Carolyn: You haven’t lived alone all that time! You had some company. What am I, chopped liver?
Barb: Oh sorry! (Laughs) Maybe 20-something years, then.
Carolyn: That’s better! And in that time, have you had various periods of time when you’ve felt more connected or less connected to the community?
Carolyn: Good, that’ll teach me for asking a yes or no question, won’t it.
Barb: Well, I’ve gone through periods of not having a lot of connection to the community but now I’m very much involved.
Carolyn: Yes, you are. You’re well connected!
Carolyn: I know you always say you can’t imagine sharing your house with anyone now, but does living alone ever bother you or make you feel less connected?
Barb: Not at all.
Carolyn: Okay, let’s talk about Nan (Barb’s mother, who died last year), because she, in the later years of her life after Pop died, lived alone and isolated herself quite a bit from her community.
Carolyn: Has that affected the way you have lived your life since you watched that happen and spent so much time caring for her, knowing how lonely and scared she became?
Barb: A little, yes, it has. She became a very lonely old lady, and I just want to become an old lady.
Carolyn: What do you do to make sure you’re not isolated?
Barb: I go to the gym, I am involved in the Lions Club and in various activities through them – some are fundraising, some aren’t – I still go to work.
Carolyn: You must have days when you’d much rather just put on your trackies and stay home. Does that happen? And what is your motivation for getting out there?
Barb: Because I spent so many years sitting around with the trackies on, so now I’ve got to make up for lost time, so I prefer to be out there. There’s no question.
Carolyn: You’re heading off to Hawaii next month with some new friends that I haven’t even met yet, including your personal trainer and some other gym buddies.
Barb: Did somebody tell you? (Laughs)
Carolyn: (Laughs) You may have mentioned it once or twice! How did that come about?
Barb: There was a marathon that was going to happen in Hawaii, and my trainer Nell was talking about going in that. And a few of us started talking, and thought it would be fun to go along. Not to do a marathon! Then I mentioned it to my sister Lorraine and she said, “What about me?” This time last year she wouldn’t even get a passport, but now she’s ready to get out there and go too. We’ve been having a lot of fun together, going on winery tours and other little trips.
Carolyn: And what’s next? What are you going to do after Hawaii?
Barb: I’ve actually been invited to go on a cruise next May, but I haven’t committed to that yet. I’ll see if my house is finished by then!
Carolyn: Yes, because you’re renovating your house too. We should mention that.
Barb: That’s right, yes.
Carolyn: I love the fact that, living alone, you get to renovate your house just for you, just the way you want it. That’s pretty awesome.
Barb: And just because I can.
Carolyn: Excellent! And what advice would you give to someone who may live alone who doesn’t know how to start getting out there again. Who finds it very intimidating or a bit scary?
Barb: Just take a step out the front door. People are surprised sometimes when I say I’m going to a show, or going to the movies or whatever on my own, but I figure if it’s something I want to see, or I want to do, I’ll do it. I don’t have to worry about whether another person’s going to like it or not, so I just go on my own. And the good thing, when you’re on your own, is you can just shut the door behind you and go out. You don’t have to plan ahead.
Carolyn (mother of three small children): That sounds like a dream!
Barb: It will come true one day, I promise!
I should mention, Barb is pretty self deprecating and doesn’t like to blow her own trumpet. Not only does she stay connected to her community but she does some pretty great work in it too. Here she is on Australia Day this year receiving her Community Service award for the work she does with her Lions Club.
We’re super proud to be partnering with Bupa in promoting their #CaringForOurGreats program. You can learn more about how you can help care for your greats at http://theblueroom.bupa.com.au/greats, including how to stay connected if you or someone you love lives alone.
Barb doesn’t need much ‘care’ right now, because as you can see, she’s a pretty impressive, independent woman, but I think in our case the caring goes both ways and we both just enjoy hanging out together. She’s one ace broad. I so want to be her when I grow up.
Do you have a Great in your life you look up to?