Name: Olga
Age at interview: 88
Gender: Female

Olga is an 88 year old divorced mother of six. She has 17 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. She has a university education and works full-time as the CEO of a community organisation. Olga is from Sri Lanka and migrated to Australia 33 years ago. She is a practicing Catholic and lives in her own home in Perth, Western Australia.

More about Olga

Olga does not feel she is getting old because her mobility is good and she has been able to do all she wants to do without hesitation. She feels grateful that at 88 she can climb the stairs and still works a 10 hour day. Olga takes medication for blood pressure, cholesterol and blood thinning, and also takes a multi-vitamin. To keep healthy she walks on the treadmill, has never smoked and only has an occasional drink. Olga plans to stay in her house as long as possible because she is comfortable where she is. She gets help once a month with cleaning the house and mowing the lawn.

Olga still works full time as the CEO of a community organisation. People are often amazed at the amount of energy she can put into the week. She is not looking forward to retirement as she gets so much satisfaction from her work. If she does not have something to do she feels she will not cope. Olga has been involved with philanthropy, as a migration agent assisting in domestic violence cases, and she takes pride in being able to achieve good outcomes for women. Although she does not plan to give this up when she retires, she feels she will not get the same sense of achievement out of voluntary work because it does not involve high-level decision making. Olga would like to work until she dies but feels this is probably not fair to the organization, that she should have a plan for someone to take over. She completed her Graduate Diploma last year because she enjoys studying and plans to do another degree on governance in organisations. Olga does not find it harder to learn as she gets older, it is more the lack of time available.

Olga has received the Order of Australia for her work with migrants. A big achievement was obtaining funding for community aged care packages for culturally diverse communities. She says the features of good care for older people in her community are having carers who can speak the language, who have knowledge about appropriate food and cultural habits. When comparing ageing in Australia with her home country of Sri Lanka, Olga says that in Sri Lanka they expect you to stay home with the family and look after your grandchildren. It is not seen as appropriate to work after 60, and you should not go out dancing or go places by yourself, especially if you are divorced and old. She would not be able to do anything like she is doing now if she was ageing in Sri Lanka. She believes there is a different attitude to ageing in Australia and it is more acceptable to show your individuality when you get older, you are made to feel more capable and you can go to any heights as you age.

Olga is a practicing Catholic and feels religion has been the first priority in her life. Her faith has helped her through major losses, and she believes having this hope has allowed her to bounce back. Olga travelled to the Holy Land last year and was able to climb all the steps and hills, although she did it a little slower than some other people. She still enjoys travelling - she returned from Malaysia a few days ago and goes to Sri Lanka often.

Olga is divorced and raised her children on her own. As a mother she spent time with her children and helped them with their studies, however, she has not been able to take a large role in caring for grandchildren because she has always been working. She says she can enjoy her grandchildren because their parents look after their main needs. Olga never dated after her divorce because she was so absorbed in her work and got so much satisfaction from that aspect of her life. She goes out socially with friends but has never had the inclination to go looking for anyone else. She admits there are occasions when she misses having somebody to help her, but her family assists with things that need to be done around the house.

Olga says it is important for family and carers to make people feel they are still capable as they get older. We need to emphasise what people can do and avoid a state of dependency. This creates a wellness attitude which helps with positive ageing. She believes that if you give up that positive attitude you become dependent in every sense.