The Courier-Mail - QWeekend



wrongs. I was told it would be a lifetime’s work, and that I was threatenin­g the basis of the Australian economy, and all the authoritie­s would want was for me to go away,’’ she writes.

“But I wasn’t brave or stupid, remarkable or deluded. I just didn’t give a damn anymore, and that made me untouchabl­e.’’

Ayliffe says she is also on a “journey of forgivenes­s’’ towards the man who stole so much from her.

“If I harbour hatred and anger towards him (Ayad), that is not going to touch him. That is going to hurt me; that’s going to destroy me,’’ she says.

“I’m not prepared for him to take my life as well as my daughter’s.

“I’m not going to let that happen.’’

But after all the years of fighting, researchin­g and advocating, and now after writing her book, it is time, Ayliffe says, to put this chapter of her life to bed.

“I think ‘tenacious’ is a nice way of describing me. I’m bloody minded. I’ll have a go, give it my best shot,’’ she says.

“To my mind, now, I think I’ve reached a point where I’ve done my bit.

“I feel it’s time for me to step back. I’m halfway across the globe, and this is actually an Australian problem.

“I am proud of what I’ve achieved and I think Mia would be proud, too.

“Actually, she’d be a bit embarrasse­d that her mum has gone on a rampage across half the world. So she’d be mortified, but also proud.

“And I am proud to have been her mother, and I will hold her in my heart until I die.’’ ■

The average retirement age in Australia is just 55, according to a government report. That leaves a lot of time to explore new possibilit­ies. Phyllis Blanchfiel­d has recently taken up line dancing. The retiree, 71, who last year moved from Townsville to the Carlyle Gardens village in Mackay with her husband John, 70, is having an absolute ball.

“I’d never done (line dancing) before in my life, but I’ve got lovely neighbours all around me, so off we went and we had a tonne of fun,” she says.

“There are so many people who put so many things back into the community, I just so enjoy it. We’re very happy here, knowing that we’re home.”

The Blanchfiel­ds are two of the estimated 3.9 million people who retire every year, according to a 2020 report from Australian Bureau of Statistics. The data shows while most people intend to retire at the age of 65, the average retirement age is 55, and the proportion of retired people is growing. People are living longer, fuller, healthier lives than ever before. It makes sense that they are happier, too.

Jill Weeks, author of 21 Ways To Retire, says the key to thriving among all these big life changes is to start investing in your new lifestyle early.

“Work gives you so much more than money,” she says. “It’s socialisat­ion, structure, time management, all those things.

“Some people like being on the golf course five days a week, but many like having more structure, and a lot of people have lots of interestin­g things in their lives after they retire.”

Weeks calls it a “lifestyle portfolio”. This could include things such as part-time work, volunteeri­ng, social opportunit­ies, creative pursuits, athletic pursuits, and

much more. They’re the things that keep people busy, keep them going, and keep smiles on their faces as they start the next chapter.

“Retirement is a time in your life to embrace a whole lot of new opportunit­ies,” she says.

“There’s no withdrawin­g, no retreating. People are getting out there and trying all sorts of different things. The way we think about ‘retirement’ has changed, and it’s going to keep changing. There are just so many people doing interestin­g and valuable things in their communitie­s; it’s a chance to learn and explore.”

Along with interests and ideas, it’s important people give thought to where they’ll spend their time. For the Blanchfiel­ds, that meant circling back to their roots and settling down on familiar ground.

“We used to live in the area, just up the road, when this was a cane field,” Blanchfiel­d says.

Both of her children went to school locally, but when they grew up, “one went one way and one went the other”. She and her husband moved to Townsville in 2005, following his work for Ergon Energy, but after her elderly mother passed away in 2016, they decided to go home to Mackay.

As luck would have it, they moved in next door to one of her husband’s old friends, and she says the two of them remain great mates.

“We call them the gnomes,” Blanchfiel­d says.

“They sit out there and talk about history – remember this, remember that, you get a real history lesson.”

John is sitting in the background and can overhear her end of the conversati­on.

“There’s always someone to talk to,” he says,

The only real challenge to the transition, she says, was downsizing. The couple lived in a large house in Townsville, and although they never had a lot of clutter, they needed to reduce their possession­s to about a third of what they had up north. She says it was well worth the effort.

“My kitchen is actually bigger than what I had,” Blanchfiel­d says.

Since they don’t need all the bedrooms, the Blanchfiel­ds converted one into their very own home theatre room. And since their house was designed with accessibil­ity in mind, they know it will remain a comfortabl­e place to live in the years ahead.

Health is, of course, something front of mind for many people considerin­g retirement.

Dr Kieran Kennedy works in psychiatry and has extensive experience in helping people manage the transition to retirement.

It can be stressful, he says, because it’s a big change that can rock the way people think about themselves. This can create a lot of pressure on both physical and mental health.

“Retirement comes with logistical changes, like finances and houses and family,” Kennedy says.

“But for me, as a mental health doctor, one of the biggest things that I see affecting people in retirement is their sense of identity.

“We spend so much of our lives attaching our identity to our ability to work and make money. When we’re just ourselves, that’s a challengin­g point. It’s like our brain gets knocked for six. Old routines and habits aren’t there, and the brain takes time to adjust and settle into new ones.”

The key to managing the transition, Kennedy says, is to find purpose in other things, such as spending time with family, investing in community, diving into new creative pursuits, or focusing on fitness goals.

Blanchfiel­d already has big plans. This year, she’s looking forward to more community events, more volunteeri­ng, more visits with loved ones, more meals out. And, of course, much more line dancing.

For people ready to make the move, Carlyle Gardens Mackay offers a resort lifestyle, and a community of likeminded people. Find out more by visiting the website.


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 ??  ?? OUT AND ABOUT: Data shows while most people intend to retire at the age of 65, the average retirement age is 55.
OUT AND ABOUT: Data shows while most people intend to retire at the age of 65, the average retirement age is 55.
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