Retirement,  Socio-Political

The Naked Retiree and Resilience

If you have not read my earlier writings about the “naked retiree” then you will need to read these to understand my concept of the “naked retiree”. On the basis that all is understood, I will continue!

I believe that developing resilience is a key for many older Australians who are heading towards the status of a “naked retiree”. It may not happen in the next week, month or year but with the current changes regarding the age pension it will happen, unless of course what comes is that unexpected windfall – a lotto win or an inheritance!

In the meantime, while all naked retirees are waiting for their windfall they need resilience. It is through the lens of resilience that hope is found. But how do you become resilient? Is this something we are born with or is it something we can all aspire to and acquire?

As it happens I am reading the book by Anne Deveson titled “Resilience”. I am interested in Anne’s comments about “relational competence”. It refers to people who seek out others to help them. If you are a “naked retiree” and live near Loganholme, you can turn up to Lighthouse Care where you can get a trolley full of groceries for $25.00. The people at Lighthouse Care, Ron & Debbie Hill and others are there to help and help they do. However, to get their help, that light on the hill, you must take the first step and move in the direction of “relational competence”.

Cape Tourville Lighthouse, Freycinet National Park, Tasmania. It is an unmanned and automatic lighthouse built in 1971. Constructed through virgin eucalypt forest with minimal disruption to the flora and fauna.
The views from Cape Tourville Lighthouse towards Wineglass Bay are stunning.

Unfortunately, for me and many others, we are not relationally competent. It is called independence and too much reliance is placed on ourselves, without reaching out to others. At our house, we are determined to take care of ourselves.

To begin with, take our daily diet – we plant vegetables and herbs. Currently, ours is a small and feeble attempt, but nonetheless a step in the right direction. My “One & Only” (O&O) and I planted lettuce seedlings weeks ago, and now we are reaping the benefits of lettuce every day for our salad lunch. We are not poor but we are savvy and we like to take care of the “pennies” so that we can enjoy the “pounds”. Anyone who is my age or older will understand my language!

Relational competence is also about having the ability to make and keep friends. If you can do this then you are better off than the person who is “friendless”.  The naked retiree, soon to have less money, will, also have less friends unless they develop “relational competence”. Do I have “relational competence”? Well, yes and no. I am selective with my friends and that may mean that I have less friends when I need them the most! If, I have less friends and less money as a retiree then I am worse off than another retiree with less money and more friends. It makes a difference if you have friends, even if this is only for times to laugh through the tough times. It is better to have a laugh with a belly half full than a full belly laugh with no friends!

Though, it goes without saying that the more money you have, the better you get treated in our material world. Look at how most people living on the street are treated. Do I, does anyone, engage with a homeless person in meaningful conversation about what has happened in their lives and what led them to this life of homelessness – no, just throw 50c or $2 into the battered hat and walk on.

The Richmond Bridge, 25 kilometres north of Hobart, Tasmania, is a heritage listed arch bridge. It is the oldest bridge still in use in Australia and the oldest stone span bridge.

Wind the clock forward to 2036. It was back in 2015 when the government of the day decided they would change the entitlements of the age pension (people over 65 years). The changes affected hundreds of thousands of Australians mid-stream in their retirement years. These are the ones who planned and structured their retirement on social security laws prior to the change on 1 January, 2017. There are those who thought they were “well off” in 2016 and now in 2036 they are barely surviving – living nakedly in the land of plenty, Australia. They are the ones who are in their 80’s or 90’s. If they are lucky enough to have “relational competence”, they will have others looking for a suitable nursing home option on their behalf. Hopefully though for the most of us, not required!

If an aged care home is the only option then in 2036 the ability of the naked retiree to enjoy life is limited. They are in a “government” subsidised or fully funded aged care facility. This type of home is where everyone sits in a chair with their head slumped and no one talks or pays attention to anyone else. This is very true as I have a friend who is in her 80’s who has had the experience. Her husband is her carer and there have been times where she has had to go into “respite care” to give her husband a break or when he had other family responsibilities. At first, she said she tried to engage others in conversation but after a while she was resigned to the reality of  “the slump” – and what transpired is that she took on the characteristic, as sad as it is.

It is 2036 in the Australian Parliament and the budget debt and deficit is the topic of conversation. New players, a new government, all debating the pitfalls with pathetic blame games of who got us all into this financial mess. Malcolm Turnbull the Prime Minister in 2016 is now in his early 80’s. His interview on national television last night (2036) explained that all the indicators were there in 2016, indicators that the budget would be in surplus by 2036. The fact that we never got there is now the fault of the government that followed the Turnbull Coalition Government into power in 2018. The naked retirees now in their twilight years, sits “slumped” and gives a collective sigh. Momentarily, awakened from “the slump”.

The older Australian, in the last 20 years, have had their savings eroded by a weak economy and the changes to the age pension in 2015. Any choice they hoped to have was taken away 20 years ago. It should have been a different story in 2036; the cost of aged care should have reduced but now the cost is exponentially out of control. In hindsight, it is now known that the cuts to the age pension in 2015 did not make one iota of difference. It was a much more complex problem and other measures should have been taken to secure economic sustainability for the future!

“Developing resilience gives us a stairway to hope” – this photo is taken from beneath the Richmond Bridge, Richmond, Tasmania.

Is this where Australia is heading? The naked retiree has nothing more to give – life has become “a slump”. Everything was given in a working life, working for the betterment of Australia, for children, families, the country. Now, this great “sunburnt country” that the poet Dorothy Mackeller spoke so highly of is “burning” older Australians. The heat will become too much for some, who will succumb, without warning, to that never-ending sunset. For others, we will build our resilience (more about this another day), grow vegetables and herbs, buy cheaper cuts of meat, exercise and look after our health – always looking for ways we can avoid “the slump” even though naked and retired.

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