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Watch NZH Local Focus: Elderly don't 'sit in a corner and dribble'

By Hunter Calder

At 98 years old, Hamilton resident Dorris Ratcliffe is busier than ever with a daily schedule that would overwhelm most young people.

She says jokingly says, "I don't know what you mean by a day off".

Each morning Ratcliffe reads the daily paper and does the crossword before passing it on to "the neighbour so he can enjoy the sport".

She says it helps keep her mind active, and then she's off out the door, usually on foot.

"I make a point of going out everyday no matter the weather because I can always catch a bus to the library, where I go regularly then going to Centre Place where there's the local mall and seeing what the shops have to offer, seeing people, socialising and going and having a coffee. So the day passes very well."

Ratcliffe also volunteers, and while she may live alone, she hasn't got time to be lonely.

"If you can keep yourself occupied it doesn't really matter and if you can do something that will help someone in some little way, well, it makes your life worthwhile now, doesn't it."

Ratcliffe is also a member of Age Concern, which wants to challenge preconceptions about retirement.

Age Concern CEO Gail Gilbert says elderly people are not a burden on society and are "very far from sitting at home just doing their knitting and not engaging in anything".

"The idea that older people just sit in a corner and dribble that's really wrong."

Ninety-five-year-old Athol Hemming is a prime example of an active retiree. He says he's always in the garden pruning roses and growing begonias.

"You've got to keep yourself going. [It's] easy to get depressed sometimes when you're by yourself, wife's gone and all the rest of it. Older people are gone, some older friends gone too."

Hemming says he's not going to stop "until they take me out" and if he ever gets tired he says he sits down to "go to sleep, wake up again and get going again".

He says the secret to ageing positively is deep breathing and "being happy and having wonderful women in my life, a wonderful mother and fantastic wife... a couple of lady friends, too right".

Gail Gilbert agrees and says says social connection is the key to ageing well.

"So if they can come here where there's a cafe, there's activities, there's people, there's younger people, and it really gives people that spark to get going again."

Age Concern has just released its annual calendar to raise awareness and provide activities for busy old people like Dorris.

Calendars can be ordered online or at Hamilton Age Concern.

Made with funding from NZ on Air.

- NZ Herald

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