Shirley and Brian H

Shirley & Brian H_photo

Name: Shirley and Brian H
Age at interview: 75 and 73
Gender: Female and male

Shirley and Brian are married and live in Darwin. Shirley is 75 and Brian is 73 years old. Brian worked in the military and Shirley was an artist; they later became missionaries. They have five adult children, five grandchildren and one great grandchild. They are Christians and have English, Irish and Scottish heritage.

More about Shirley and Brian H

For Shirley and Brian, growing older has been more about health concerns than about the ageing process, which Brian describes as an 'up and down' experience. He feels that, if it weren't for the health issues he has had in recent years, he would be just as fit today as when he retired. Shirley does not feel her age and has only been aware of the 'slowing down' which comes with age. She does not like this, as it limits the things she likes to do such as bushwalking and travel. Despite their problems, they feel that ageing has not had a major impact on their lives as they are still as mentally capable as they have always been.

Brian retired from the Army in 1984 and the couple began part-time missionary work, which became a full-time enterprise in 1991. Brian started several home maintenance and landscape businesses in those seven years after retirement; he also used his expertise gained from the Army as volunteer training officer with the Coast Guard. Shirley volunteered at an opportunity shop during this time. They had plans to travel around Australia and bought a well-appointed caravan, however Brian's first operation occurred which impacted on these plans. They now feel this sort of travel is not really possible and their caravan has been recently sold. Now that they are fully retired and their family is grown, they have more time to spend with their large circle of friends and in philanthropic ventures. They used to take children from disadvantaged families on day trips in a bus they bought for the purpose. Brian and Shirley now live in the staff quarters of a 150 bed hostel with onsite church, which provides assistance for out patients, including pregnant women and those undergoing dialysis. They manage the hostel, which in turn provides financial help to support pastors, orphanages, schools and other programs in third world countries.

Shirley and Brian have both experienced recent ill-health which has been a distressing experience. Brian had surgery in 2009 for holes in his bowel and bladder and a perforation occurred during the surgery. He then contracted a number of infections whilst in hospital, including septicaemia and golden staph which had serious ramifications. Shirley had her first stroke five years ago and had another one three weeks prior to the interview. She was considerably distressed, as she felt she was 'back at square one' and did not know how she was going to cope, particularly as Brian had been recently discharged from hospital. A significant source of comfort for them during these difficult times was their religion and the knowledge that they had a number of churches praying for them. They credit this as having a vital role in their recovery.

Brian feels that their children gained more respect for him and Shirley as they grew older. Their children have also been very supportive through their health troubles, making arrangements to visit Brian and Shirley altogether. When Brian was in hospital, they also assisted Shirley to move into their current home. Brian and Shirley's hopes for their grandchildren and great grandchild are that they grow up to be Christians and that they have great respect for people.

Shirley feels that one of the most positive things about growing older is that she has the opportunity to live amongst her friends and fellow Christians and be closely involved in their church. She lives life day by day and is not going to let her current health concerns 'hold her down.' Brian believes that the secret to successful ageing is to keep as active as your body allows. He feels that the increased knowledge, experience and peace are the most satisfying aspects of growing older.