“ There are no signposts for women as they get older, “ says Renata Singer, author of the newly published book ‘Older and Bolder Life after 60 ’.
Throughout their lives, women have followed all the usual signposts – going to school, university, entering a profession, having a job, getting married, having children, often going back to work. But when they hit their 60s, this generation of women enters unknown territory. Retirement, isolation, and babysitting the grandchildren, are not attractive signposts for them.
For the first time in history there are millions of women now in their 60s, who are highly educated, have professions and expertise, and have spent years in the workforce. And for the first time in history, these women can expect to live to their 90s.
So the question arises – how do women want to spend the next 30 years?
Renata saw fabulous women in their 90s and 100s, working, performing, competing and taking on new challenges, and having a great time. It drove her to write her book in which she looks to the ‘elders’ for guidance and inspiration. In it, she interviews 28 women aged 85 to 100. Each woman has her own, very individual way of living her life – but each of them is audacious and courageous. They are all women who won’t allow themselves to be defined by their age, by stereotypes or by society’s expectations.
Renata’s other books include True Stories from the Land of Divorce, Goodbye and Hello, and a novel, The Front of the Family. With her husband, the philosopher Peter Singer, she co-edited The Moral of the Story: Ethics Through Literature.
Renata is also an educator and community activist. She co-founded Fitted for Work in Australia, a non-profit organisation that in the 10 years since it was founded, has assisted 20,000 women experiencing disadvantage to get work and keep it by providing free business clothing, interview training, mentoring and transition to work programs.
She lives and works both in New York and Melbourne.
‘Older and Bolder Life after 60 ’ is published by Melbourne University Press https://www.mup.com.au/items/159545
Renata’s Top 5 Places:
Writing this from New York makes me immediately homesick. Yes of course I love high-pitched sirens going day and night, sticky people-packed pavements, cheek-to jowl galleries, and more theatre than all Australian capital cities put together. But my favourite place in the world is:
Mt Buffalo National Park, Victoria
I first visited Mt Buffalo National Park on my honeymoon. My husband’s family had been regulars at Mt Buffalo Chalet since he was a child and I fell for the place immediately.
Every Easter holiday, it was a mad rush to pick up the kids the minute school ended and up the Hume Highway to beat the traffic, so much excitement percolating in that back seat that they were almost well behaved. And always a cheer as we passed the exit to Glenrowan and saw the mountain for the first time – not looking that much like a Buffalo despite its name.
Sadly the Chalet is no longer open but you can still camp (from Melbourne Cup Day in November until April each year). The camping ground is right on stunning Lake Catani. You can easily spend a week exploring what Mt Buffalo has to offer. But it’s also worth driving up from the bottom of the mountain for the day to hike or stroll, rock climb, picnic, hang glide, and to see the lyrebirds and wallabies, swim or kayak in the lake and – best of all – enjoy the fantastic views.
Lamington National Park, Queensland
The park is a two hour drive from Brisbane and I’ve been there many times staying either at O’Reilly’s or Binna Burra, both perfect places from which to explore the area.
Once in the Park, you’re surrounded by cool damp rain forests, part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area. Forests like this once covered all of Australia and many of the trees and plants – like the Antartic beech tree – are unique and date back to prehistoric times. Imagine, they have outlived the dinosaurs and three-quarters of the other species they once co-existed with.
You’re sure to come across a bower bird nest and may even be lucky enough to see the male performing its crazy dance trying to attract a mate. Our most scary animal experience in the Park was our youngest daughter screaming blue murder when she almost stepped on a blue mountain crayfish.
Don’t miss the Tree Top Walk at O’Reilly’s. You climb high up and up and from this exhilarating vantage point get the chance to observe life in the rainforest canopy at close range. Many of the lookout points on the walks have panoramic views over the Gold Coast, south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales.
Great Ocean Road, Victoria
For ten years we’ve had a holiday house in this area. Big enough for our extended family of children and grandchildren, it’s a rare weekend that our house is empty. We love other friends and family to use it when we can’t. There’s nothing wreckable in the place and it’s only five minutes walk from a very safe – by surf beach standards – beach.
For four weeks in January everything along this coast is packed out, with crowds on the beaches and in the supermarket. Traffic jams are typical especially when the Fall’s Festival over New Year is on at Lorne. It’s like that on long weekends and over Easter but otherwise – for most of the year – the beautiful beaches are amazingly empty.
The drive is one of the most scenic in the world and there are not to be missed sights like the Twelve Apostles at Port Campbell and the whale watching at Warnambool. Or like me, if you’re not in the water at the beach, the best way to see this and any country is to walk. Take one of the long walks like the Great Ocean Walk from Apollo Bay to Port Campbell, or one of the short to medium strolls in the rainforests behind Lorne. Maybe I’ll see you there next summer.
Cape Leveque, Western Australia
You’ll definitely need a 4 –wheel drive car for the 200 kilometre drive from Broome – the soft dirt road is really rugged. Or you can fly. Either way you’ll arrive in everyone’s idea of paradise, as long as you go in the dry season from June to September.
Cape Leveque lies on the northernmost tip of the Dampier Peninsula, in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. The resort is 100 per cent indigenous owned by the two neighbouring communities of this area, the Djarindjin and the Ardyaloon communities. They’ve been running the place for over 20 years.
It’s one of my most recent discoveries. We stayed in a safari-style tent with its own bathroom and kitchen, overlooking the white sands, red cliffs and sparkling blue sea. We enjoyed a glass bottom boat tour, and one of the bush tucker guided walks that opened our eyes to all the food around us that was eaten by indigenous people.
Although there are many many things to do, best of all is doing nothing but soaking up the sheer tranquillity and beauty of this magical place.
Be sure to be on the beach for the spectacular sunsets when the rays light up those red cliffs like a magic lantern show. If you like a drop of alcohol, you’ll need to bring your own as there is none, not even in the excellent restaurant. BYO is fine.
Wilson’s Promontory National Park, Victoria
The Prom is so beloved by the people of Victoria that in 1996 hundreds of people lined the beaches forming ‘Hands off the Prom’ signs with their bodies and towels and stopped then Premier Jeff Kennett’s plans for a large tourist development.
After a pleasant three hour drive from Melbourne, you’ll find plenty of accommodation options at Tidal River. You can camp, caravan or stay in huts, cabins, and lodges of various sizes and at different levels of comfort. Again it’s almost impossible to get the peak holiday times.
At the southernmost tip of mainland Australia, really the Prom has everything – huge granite mountains, open forest, rainforest, and sweeping beaches. The ocean around the Prom is a marine national park and great for snorkeling and diving. It’s at the Prom that I first saw mangroves: those stunted resilient trees with their tangle of roots above water.
You are absolutely assured of seeing kangaroos, emus, echidnas and older wild life at dawn and dusk and that’s the time to watch out for them on the road. They are not road safety conscious.
If you’ve got small children they’ll love Squeaky Beach and the warm shallows of Tidal River – yes the white sand does squeak.
Again it’s a paradise for walkers with walks to suit everyone. Most recently we did the hike to the Lighthouse – you can stay there overnight – probably my absolute limit at just over 20km each way. One never forgotten family moment is when we camped at Refuge Cove and heard strange scratchings outside our tent. There was a possum busily pulling down the zip on one of our back packs to get at the dried fruit. Now that’s an evolved species for you.
* I never travel without my own sun block – most brands make my eyes puff up and water like crazy.
* Always try to smile at airport staff – people working at the airline counters and in security could do with some cheer.
* I like an aisle seat as I hate climbing over people to get to the toilet.