Meet our Get set. 60 winners – Mary Walsh
Our society’s perspective on aging doesn’t always line up with reality. Over-60s have never been more able, active and engaged with their world. At Apia, we want to celebrate everyday Australians who defy the stereotypes! In Apia’s Get set 60 initiative, we championed some standout personalities in the over-60 community like Mary Walsh – a passionate volunteer at WA Seabird Rescue. Read on as Mary tackles some common misconceptions of life over 60 and explains how she proves them wrong.
Misconception #1: Life's boring after you turn 60.
“Life's been really exciting for me. It's full of surprises with my birds and full of excitement with my travels. For my 60th birthday, we went on a volcano tour around southern Italy with an itinerary that included climbing Vesuvius, Etna and Stromboli. While we were there, the Stromboli volcano had a proper constant eruption, which was just amazing timing. It was the trip of a lifetime! Especially because my first word was volcano! Everyone else’s is mum or dad… [Growing up in Vanuatu], my mum used to hold me in her arms and point out the volcano glowing in the sky at night.”
Misconception #2: People over 60 are lonely and disengage with their community.
Misconception #3: People over 60 aren't very independent.
“I think it’s the reverse. Totally the reverse. Like, I've made it this far - no one's going to tell me what to do! That said, you usually need somebody to work with you when you're on a rescue - and most rescues I do with my husband. In a recent rescue of two cygnets, I was on my paddleboard and only able to catch one of the birds on my own. But I was able to get the other in to shore, where my husband could reach it. It's a real team effort, which is great. It's a really proud moment when you can do something that people don't expect you to be able to do, either because of your age or because it's difficult. It's a good feeling.”
Misconception #4: People over 60 aren’t that active.
Misconception #5: People over 60 don't take risks.
“I certainly take risks. Rescuing birds is a risk, one way or another. You can get pecked, you can get scratched. I was chasing a duck recently with my long-handled net and decided I’d try a rugby leap to get it - the grass was soft and muddy grass, so I thought I’d be able to slide like they do on a football field. But I took the leap, missed the duck, and landed on my ribs - the next day they were really, really sore! If I’d caught the bird, maybe that risk would’ve been worth it - but yes, I take risks. It's so important to just decide that our risks are worth taking, that life's an adventure - and it shouldn't stop being an adventure just because you're older.”
Our community has always known the richness, the potential, the happiness that life over 60 brings - even though society hasn’t quite caught up. One of the clearest paths to securing more accurate representation is to share and celebrate more stories like Mary’s - and more.
With more than 30 years of getting to know Australia’s over-60 community, Apia is committed to bringing those truths to those who need to hear them most. Here’s to more adventures ahead!
Since retirement, life’s certainly changed. It’s so much more fun.
I think that constant feeling of surprise in your life is actually a good thing. I mean you can get pecked, you can get scratched. It’s so important to just decide that risks are worth taking, that life’s an adventure and it shouldn’t stop being an adventure just because you’re older.
I’m Mary Walsh and I’m a volunteer with West Australian Seabird Rescue. And that means that I go out and rescue birds a bit like an ambulance service, but you have to catch your patients. So we also rescue swans and duck families often need relocating. Pelicans, they’re probably the peak bird that volunteers want to rescue because they’re so big and awesome. Pelicans, once they realise you’ve got them they relax and go, oh well, I give up. So then they’re really quite easy to carry it back to the car and get it down to the hospital.
They’re often caught with a fishing line somewhere, is their usual thing. Sometimes they are able to sedate it and take the hook out straight away. If you can get them fixed back to normal again and back to good health, it’s a really good feeling.
Mostly I love the fact that we’re looking after the environment and we’re encouraging other people to look after the environment as well. It just feels great to bond with people over our shared purpose. It’s just a lovely group to be part of. When I was young, women if they were working at all they retire at 60 and that was that. You just life a quiet life, but these days there’s more feeling of it being okay to be active. And we know that if you stay active you live longer, and you have a better life so why wouldn’t you?
And it’s so good to be learning new things. And I don’t know, I just see retirement as a time where you’ve got time to do things that you couldn’t do when you were busy working, and that you’ve got all sorts of new things you haven’t tried in your life yet and so there’s so much to look forward to.
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