This is the first interview in the series of 50 cameos of older people living well. I hope to interview people from all walks of life showing positive role models of how older people find meaning and create vital and happy lives. I loved this interview with Ivan because his attitude to life says it all……..
Ten years ago as a “townie” chasing a country idyll, I came to this country town and soon realised that mowing and slashing my large block was beyond my capability. None of this “cheaper than a gym membership” rubbish. Pushing a mower up a steep bush block of nearly an acre needed a Schwarzenegger. I needed a strong, muscled man and fast. I asked around and the consensus was ” You need Ivan.” I looked forward to meeting this young weight lifter who would reduce my block of thistles and Cooch to a controlled paradise.
I opened the door to a diminutive older man wearing a beautifully tailored jacket, work trews and a baseball cap. I looked around for The Schwartz…nothing. We talked over a cup of tea and I thought…what the hell… give him this job.. once, I need help now. As he left Ivan handed me his self-made business card…..It read ” Gardener and home help for old and needy people.” OK Last Straw…….old and needy…Pffff….. once.. just once he can come and cut my grass…….
Ten years later, aged 84, Ivan still mows and slashes my grass.The garden is different now. It’s not a bush block anymore but a series of terraced garden rooms but the large lawn area on the down slope and constant slashing are still a huge job taking 3-4 hours of hard work. We chat over a cuppa often and buy each other a little gift at Xmas. He’s a friend now and I no longer mind being called old or needy. Thinking about who I wanted to interview as a positive ageing role model, the person was sitting right in front of me.
Ivan, tell me a bit about your life?
I was born on the Serbian/ Croatian border, the oldest of 9 children. My German mother worked as a housemaid to a wealthy family and my father was a Croat and a farmer. After finishing school I got an apprenticeship as a tailor and by 1960’s I was married and with a young family migrated to Australia. The life would be better here. I worked in a factory but I had health issues caused by the solvents used at work. So the family moved to the country where we built a home. My wife and I separated some years ago when the children were grown up. She wanted to live in the city but I like it here and I’ve lived in this area ever since. I rent a house now and live on a pension with a little bit of money from mowing. I’m 84 now.
What do you like about your life at this age?
I never look backwards, only forward. I wouldn’t change a thing about my life. I’m happy. Always busy. I like to keep busy with growing vegies and making things- welding, wood-working and tailoring. I have sewing machines and machinery and a large garage. In spring I’m very busy. I have 3 ladies I cut lawns for and an old man with arthritis whom I help with his garden and chop his firewood. I like the internet and I am always learning. I look at websites about health and medical research and I follow the work of doctors learning about nutrition.
What are the negatives about life at this age?
Telstra! ( the telecoms giant in Australia) My internet connection is so slow and poor. They don’t listen to older people. I have to fight with them every day nearly. Family is difficult and I wish I was closer with my children. But what can you do? They have their own lives and make their own decisions. I say to my wife she can come back to live here with me at any time. But she doesn’t want too. I would also like to be able to write in English better. But I read and understand OK.
What’s on your wish-list for your older age?
Ivan struggles with this question- I suggest travel, more money, own a house etc etc. He says no to every suggestion I make…
I travel all over the world with the internet! My big wish is to work until the day I die. If I work I am happy.
I ask..Do you ever get depressed?
Ivan laughs…No I’m too busy. I am never bored. Life is good.
Do you ever get lonely? Do you miss being with a partner? Have you ever tried on-line dating?
…. again he finds this very funny…No he says… no dating or partners………… friends are most important at this age. He says he’s friends with everyone..” I’m colour blind” so I never worry about which country people are from.
What’s your advice to others about living well in older age?
Health is everything.
Diet:Take care of yourself, Eat organic fruit and vegetables and use only rapeseed and coconut oil. Don’t eat meat or chicken its too full of hormones. Eat legumes. Not too much dairy either. Eat when you are hungry, not at “mealtimes.” My health is everything and I look after myself for many years now.
Exercise: Every day a few times a day- 10-15 minutes of gardening or walking a few times a day… not much.. just enough. I am very fit because I cut lawns 3 times a week……
Learning: You have to use your brain. Be curious about the world. Don’t close the door. I have curiosity like a cat..never finished learning and never will.
Friends: You have to talk to people. I talk to everyone and have friends. Everybody knows me here. They wave as I go past and say ” Hello Ivan. How you been? “
Work: Have a purpose..things you have to do keep you alive and active. Always find something to do. Help other people
Final words Ivan? ……..Not everyone has such a good life as me. I’m happy, I think only about now and don’t worry about things that may not happen. Lawns keep growing so I will always have work! If Telstra would fix the internet life would be everything I have always wanted!
What strikes me about Ivan is that his mental attitude is everything. It’s the powerhouse that gives him a sense of purpose, constant learning and the will to live life to the full. From my perspective, he has so little in material terms. He doesn’t worry about the share market or whether his living room has designer cushions. He doesn’t worry about wrinkles. He never complains or seems unhappy. He lives in the present with a smile on his face. When I asked him how long he wanted to live..he shrugged……”not my decision” he said…”I dont worry about that. I’m here now.”