Name: Merrilyn
Age at interview: 66
Gender: Female

Merrilyn is 66 years old, and a retired personal care attendant of Anglo-Australian background. Her partner is in a nursing home and she lives on her own in community housing on the New South Wales north coast. She has two adult children and a large number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

More about Merrilyn

Growing older has been a gradual process for Merrilyn, with many stages and different emotions. Merrilyn's parents died quite young. A doctor told her that, because of the family history of Type II diabetes (which Merrilyn has) and the ages her mother and grandmother died from the disease, she would die younger than her mother. This made her very angry at the time. Merrilyn is now approaching the age her mother was when she died but she feels fine about it. She has had a lot to preoccupy her lately which has taken her mind off her own worries. She has recently had friends who have passed away, some younger than herself. Merrilyn has found this hard to deal with, however, she is philosophical about her own death and is ready for it whenever it may happen.

Merrilyn has recently placed her partner of 20 years into care due to his dementia and incontinence. Merrilyn had found his incontinence increasingly difficult to manage by herself; this actually made the decision easier, because she could not physically cope with looking after her partner anymore. She has found it hard to leave after she visits him because he is still in the process of accepting his new situation. Merrilyn, however, is relieved to be able to do things in her own time and is enjoying doing crafts for local fetes and getting ready for family birthdays and Christmas.

Merrilyn is struggling financially, as half of her pension goes towards rent and she has additional expenses of high vet bills and funeral plans for both herself and her partner that increase in cost each year. She has become involved with the local food pantries, run by some of the churches in the area, which provide low-cost groceries for pensioners and others on low incomes. This has also become a social event for Merrilyn. She has recently applied to do voluntary work at the nursing home where her partner resides and has previously been involved with Diabetes Australia. She struggles with technology and often needs to ask her children or grandchildren for help, so she is considering doing a course on using the internet. These activities are particularly important to Merrilyn now that she no longer feels safe fishing at night, which she really enjoys. She also needs to be careful fishing during the day because she has had a number of skin cancers. Merrilyn is being proactive about her health, particularly in an effort to control her diabetes. She is eating properly and exercising more by walking her dog and going to a gym, and has lost weight as a result. She feels fortunate that her medicines are all covered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, otherwise the cost to her would be prohibitive.

Merrilyn has noticed that people, particularly shop assistants, treat her as if she is 'invisible' now that she is older. She also struggles with the general lack of respect shown to older people by younger generations. However, she still believes it is important for everyone to get out and about and ask for help with problems, so that life can be lived to the full.