Age at interview: 91
Leonie is a 91 year old woman with a university education. Her career involved social work and she officially retired just a few years ago. Leonie was married for 33 years and was widowed at the age of 62. She migrated to Australia 55 years ago and never had children. She lives by herself in her own home in Perth, Western Australia.
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More about Leonie
Leonie has found ageing to be a gradual process and did not feel 'older' until she was in her 60s and 70s. At this stage she recognised she was getting slower physically but her mind did not slow down until much later. Leonie reflects on how her senses have diminished as she has aged - her sight, taste, smell and hearing. She says this has affected her enjoyment of life, for example not been able to hear the dialogue when she goes to the theatre. Leonie keeps healthy by eating fruits and vegetables, taking vitamin and mineral supplements, avoiding alcohol, not worrying too much and seeing a dietician and doctor regularly. She is now too frightened to engage in much exercise because if she falls the consequences could be drastic.
After being widowed 30 years ago Leonie became much more isolated; her social circle declined almost automatically. She believes this is because we live in a 'couple society'. She says that going to dinner or the theatre on her own makes her feel uncomfortable, like a 'shag on a rock'. She is reluctant to phone acquaintances and invite them out because she feels she is interfering with their activities, as they have families to keep them busy. Physical mobility is not an issue in Leonie's sense of isolation. She still drives and says she would be absolutely shattered without her license, particularly as she does not have family to rely on to take her places.
Leonie talks about the importance of being needed and wanted, and this would help her to avoid feeling lonely. Not having family has meant she has missed that sense of belonging and having the right to rely on someone. Leonie has found that making friends takes longer when you are older because there are fewer things you can do together. She has not been interested in traditional hobbies such as knitting or book clubs; she has always been too busy with work. She loves to listen to music and this has been a great passion of hers all her life. She enjoys travelling, however, after breaking her leg she finds it difficult to get dressed or have a bath, which would be even more difficult on a cruise or walking for hours sightseeing.
As she gets older, Leonie has noticed people's attitude toward her has changed. For example, when food shopping she notices young people get served faster while she is left to wait. She thinks this might have something to do with physically getting shorter as you age and becoming 'invisible'. She feels that older people are not valued in society, that they are not recognised as knowing things or having had a wealth of experiences in life. On the other hand, when people do go out of their way to help her or fuss over her she gets tired of saying thank you and would much rather be able to do those things herself.
Leonie has not kept up with technology because she would rather engage with people than machines. She believes not using email or the internet adds to her sense of isolation. She thinks it is harder to learn new technology as she gets older, largely because she did not grow up with it, in addition to her unconscious resistance to it.
Leonie retired in her late 80s. Continuing to work meant she was still connected to colleagues and to clients. She kept up her career because she is interested in people. She found her practice wound down by itself over the years because she was not getting the same number of referrals as she got older. In that sense she observed less valuing of older practitioners within the profession. On the other hand, she also felt it was time to let go because she was not fully involved in keeping up with the latest techniques and research.