Jane Goodall on Ageing: Living a Full Life

Have you ever watched a toddler learning a new skill like walking? The single-minded determination, though they often fall and stumble, is an amazing thing to see. A child has no doubt in their young mind that they will not succeed. They are steadfast in their pursuit of success and failure is just another reason to get right back up again.

Jane Goodall is an inspiring example of someone who has harnessed this tenacity and strength of spirit to pursue her dreams and spread her message of hope. At 83, she travels over 300 days a year and spreads awareness about chimpanzees and other environmental crises that are affecting our planet. At a recent interview hosted by Business Chicks, I was struck by her calm confidence and the obvious inspiration she took from the younger people in our society. “Because young people, when they understand the problems and are empowered to take action, when we listen to their voices, when we encourage them to roll up their sleeves and find ways to tackle the injustices and problems that they care about, are my greatest hope for the future.[1]” Through the creation of The Jane Goodall Institute and the Roots & Shoots initiative, she seeks to teach young people that they matter and we all have a role to play.

Given the scope of her life and work, her response when asked about what she’s learned about how we age is not surprising. “Well, it’s a question I can’t really answer because I don’t think about it. It’s a question I’m often asked. What keeps you going? Well, I’ve given you my reasons for hope. I’m an obstinate person.”

In the face of huge corporations and politicians who refuse to admit we have an obligation to take care of our planet, or that our environment is facing a crisis, she stands fast. It takes amazing fortitude and strength of character to push back against a seemingly immovable force. “And when people say well this is something you can never change. I say, well, dammit I will!”

Jane Goodall seems to effortlessly ignore the struggles many of us face at various stages in our lives. By dedicating her life to the service of others and the world around us, she has strived to push boundaries and explore the possibilities life has to offer rather than focusing on possible limitations. “So, I don’t think about ageing, I haven’t got time to think about ageing.”

Inevitably, time will march on. But the future doesn’t seem to hold any fear but rather, a new adventure to be conquered. “And you know, the next thing will be death. And death is either the end of everything, in which case, so what? Or else it’s something else … in which case that will be the greatest adventure. And I think there is something else. So, I don’t look forward to the dying, but I’m not afraid of death.”

If we could all pursue our lives and purpose with such dogged determination and refuse to dwell on our perceived limitations, imagine what we could accomplish.


[1] Champ, Nicky. “17 Rapid-fire Questions with Dr. Jane Goodall.” Business Chicks. Business Chicks, 09 May 2017. Web. 29 June 2017.

Click here to subscribe

Retirement: Recreation or Re-creation?

Around 500,000 Australians will retire this year. What are you looking forward to in retirement? Maybe some travel? Catching up on reading all those books you always planned to get through? More time on the golf course?

With lifespans longer than at any other time in history, the reality is, if we retire at 65, or even earlier at 55 or 60, travel, reading, and leisure doesn’t necessarily sustain us for a healthy, happy later life of up to 20+ years.

Recreation plays a big part in the hopes and dreams of the pre-retired. However, the aftermath of an extended European vacation or a move to the countryside, can present retirees with a host of new emotional challenges they hadn’t anticipated.


Post-retirement blues?

The unexpected loss of purpose that can strike retirees is often a challenge. The euphoria of the daily grind of work now replaced with the lack of stimulation, interaction with colleagues – of all ages, and relatively mundane routine with friends of the same age or older. A sense of emptiness that can ensue as a result of being an empty nester and simply remaining at home with you and your partner can be both confronting and testing.

Those who choose a sea change, tree change or downsize from a house to an apartment, or move to over 55’s living or a retirement village, have a new set of challenges associated with becoming established in a new community as this couple discovered.

So what’s retirement then if not travel, relaxation, and not working (yay!)?

Retirement is more than recreation.  It’s a time for re-creation.


The Third Phase

Whether lonely or bored or neither, retirement is a time for recreating ourselves and maximising this Third Phase of life.

Volunteering and being involved with community activities are essential for healthy ageing, as is physical exercise and healthy eating. Expanding existing interests such as joining a book club (from being a casual book-reader) and resurrecting past hobbies (I’m finally going to restore that old bike that’s been sitting in the garage…and go riding again) are a great place to start. However, discovering new interests (I’m going to take up French lessons), hobbies (tai-chi, University of the 3rd Age, piano playing, dancing), and even re-training (go back to uni as this 93-year-old did, or qualify as a personal trainer or yoga teacher) are all possibilities for our re-creation.


Re-creation & dementia

Dementia is the single greatest cause of disability in older Australians (aged 65 years or older)[1]. Throwing yourself into completely new hobbies, interests, and learning not only keeps you busy, but by forcing the brain to learn new things, it staves off cognitive decline. It is imperative that a concerted effort be made to keep the brain stimulated with active learning and ‘doing’, otherwise we raise our likelihood of becoming part of the dementia epidemic.

So … with potentially 20 or 30 years (or more) of life to live after retirement, how will you re-create yourself when you retire? What are your plans?

Let me know. I’d love to hear from you.


This article is part of a series by Three Sisters Group on changing attitudes to marketing to the over-50s. It calls attention to the need to challenge our stereotypes about getting older and seeks to build understanding about how attitudes to ageing impact all aspects of our lives – from research, to workplace practices, marketing activity, community services, planning and housing.

[1] 1 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2012) Dementia in Australia.

Click here to subscribe

What if we acknowledged people older than us in our own culture

Does the Australian culture respect older people? 5 questions worth asking.

I love the welcome usually given prior to a conference, school occasion, or other event in Australia. We’re asked to do two things: acknowledge the traditional landowners as the custodians of this land AND pay respect to Elders past and present. But, has this practice spilled over into a cultural tendency to respect all Elders regardless of our heritage? Read more

Happy holidays

This is a brief note to thank you for your readership and support throughout 2016. In my last piece for this year these are my reflections and highlights of the year that’s been …

Read more

Forget Generation X, Y, Z, and Baby Boomers

Generational labels that divide.

Population divisions based on the year we are born.

What if we removed the labels and simply met each other as people, with a variety of wants, needs and challenges that span age?

What would happen to the smashed avocado debate then?

Read more

Shades of white

White is white.

Until you try to choose white paint.

If you’ve ever tried to choose white paint you’ll know just how tricky it is to choose the shade of white you’d like to paint a room or a house.

Ageing is the same.  Here’s why.

Read more

Innovating ageing. Together.

5 hours.

That’s how much our life expectancy increases every day.

Thus, our lifespans are longer today than at any other time in history. So what does this mean for us?

Innovating ageing. Together.

Read more

2 reminders about ageing

“Age is just an abstraction not a straight-jacket.”

Read more

What’s your Plan B?

In a perfect world I’d like to remain at home until the end of my life. Wanting this is one thing. Creating the environment in which this is possible is another. Can I really stay at home to the end? Planning is crucial.

Read more

When my Dad died …

I was 28. He was 61. At the time I thought he’d had a good innings because he was, after all, ‘old’. That was nearly 25 years ago. Now I know I was wrong. What do I think now? Read more