On being a normal pensioner…. but what is normal? 68



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So for us, being a pensioner means coffee and conversation, writing and painting, continually juggling our money, struggling to keep the grass cut and the cobwebs at bay. Snoozing as we watch TV; getting out of chairs with some difficulty. Rare trips to see family, cooking good simple food, laughing at very silly things, and caring for two crazy cats. I also still like wild music and love clothes.

In my group of friends I know several who are comfortably off but still running a business, so they are busy and have money, but very little time. A couple of others have retired and are busy doing the overseas trips, cruises and exploring, working through their bucket lists. Widows who are trotting around Europe; or island hopping; spending the inheritance.

We are unable to afford holidays or too many trips away. We had some amazing years when life was easy; times when we lived in a beautiful apartment in the centre of Bath and my husband ran a business there. Life has altered over the last twenty years. We adjust as we have to. No longer rushing off to Paris or Menorca now, but we have seen a lot of Australia and I am so happy we did it while we could.

Food shopping is an important consideration; we shop at Aldi where the prices are suitable for our budget. We live from week to week sometimes, with a small burst of madness and excess if anything extra comes our way. We both paint and although we rarely sell anything, when we do we rush out and buy a nice meal or spend it on a small luxury. We are on a pension, which is all we have, so prescription medicine is at least affordable.

Most pensioners have some health issues. We seem to share two similar afflictions, both of us have had slight heart problems and I see a specialist every three months. I also have rheumatoid arthritis. It does not impact too badly on my life, just a little pain in my fingers and sometimes a problem walking longer distances. Guess I am sort of lucky as it could be so much worse.

I plan the food we have, mostly simple things like chops, lasagne roasts, homemade soups and cakes; I try to batch bake now and then so the freezer has something for those busy days. It also saves me shopping and adding impulse buys in the shopping basket, as they add up!

Clothes we buy sensibly. I have written many times about my ‘bargain buys’ as I am an avid charity shop searcher, and also good at timing when sales are on. My husband bought a lot of clothes that have lasted well, as he was able to spend a little more when he was a council representative. Men’s fashions hardly change and he is 80 now. As he says he had his trendy years.

Time is taken up with some writing, and painting. I also belong to U3A so find my days are structured by the activities, we have had “Family History” classes, Mah-jong sessions. Also I run a small art group Wednesdays, and on Fridays my husband also joins in for the Coffee Club held at a Bistro locally, always fun as we put the world to rights over a coffee. Lively discussion about politics, religion and even sex. No holds barred. Then the huge exciting event of the week: we go for a meal at the local hotel with our close friends. We put the money away for this so we can afford it.

I watch less TV than my husband – I suppose for women it is always that way, there is always something to do; the washing, the ironing, the housework. I have not allowed myself to ask for help, so the dust remains in high spots in the house!

My husband in retirement is much more likely to do chores, when we were younger he never did. Or rarely did! Now he washes up and vacuums, which is an amazing help.

There are pensioners here whose life revolves around bowls or the church, bingo or the club, sport or saving money. Yes, we are all different, most of us have seen enormous changes in our lifetime, we are a generation that has had to evolve faster than any other, so take a bow just for surviving.


What’s a day in the life like for you?

Jacqui Lee

Jacqui Lee is 75 and now retired but the last ten years or so have been some of her busiest. She worked at a hospital, where she took several Certificated courses, she cleaned a school, helped to run two conventions, wrote short stories, started painting, and in fact is never bored even now, "I honestly feel we are lucky to still be upright and breathing, and my motto is, Remember yesterday, dream of tomorrow, but live today. I love fun, clothes, food and friends."

  1. We don’t sleep in front of the TV. We “watch through our eyelids.” I remember us laughing 30 years ago when my mother and father would visit. They’d sit in the lounge room and watch the fish. We had a huge tank and several smaller tanks (That’s what you get when you marry a Pisces) and Mum and Dad would say how lovely the fish were and slowly they’d both nod off. More and more I notice we are just following in our late parent’s footsteps.

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  2. Hi Jacqui Lee, just read your article with interest, I’m just embarking on the trying to live on the ” Old Age Pension ” I’m finding it hard to adjust to ” No cash income ” so I’m trying to curtail my impulse buying at the shops (not easy, I’m a bloke ) was never a price concious person but, now I’m realising one has to pull one’s head in , I’m also learning to cook ….that’s a sight to behold I’m told .!! …I’m the bloke that burns water !! so I have had some “interesting food fare ” ….I write in the singular ..as I am ….but, I’m trying to import an instant family which is proving to be not only difficult but not made easy by my Australian Government very “expensive Visa’s ..in this country over $10,000 to bring my new lady here …(that’s just for the visa application fee ) a necessary cost in my case …..which kind of blows the budget out the window …but it beats the one ” Cancer ” that is rarely mentioned …Loneliness ….so as we do …a justified Expense…a new partner in life ..to share the joy of life on the Aussie old age pension lol…it will be interesting Jacqui to see how we manage ….we are both healthy at this stage we are both active I’m 67 and i still go roller skating …yes I do get some funny looks …but, I’m past caring as I’m having a ball … as I always say …Everyday Above the ground …is a great one …!!

    1 REPLY
    • Yes upright and breathing! and all days are different, we sometimes struggle and get a defeated day, but soon bubble up and feel better. Small pleasures can be fun, things that don’t cost the earth, go for some shared chips on the sea front, or a country walk with a cheese sandwich, we live near a beautiful little port and drive there when we need the cobwebs blown away. Good luck with your new life. So many cooking shows on TV you can pick up tips and the library might help too?

  3. Can so relate to your article – describes our “downsizing” to a T – especially juggling the budget bit ! My grandchildren live overseas ‘so Skype plays a huge role as trips are unaffordable . We have volunteered in our local community projects which give 2-way benefits of being useful and meeting new friends .

  4. I’ve got a couple of years to go till I reach pension age, and will also be on a tight budget. Good to read of someone with such a positive attitude. Good article thank you

  5. Very much our story only we have never had any money but did have some nice holidays just in australia simple holidays but good ones.

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