Many of the post-war Greek immigrants who made a life in Australia, who worked hard and created a future for their children, now fear losing their independence due to ageing. Many second-generation Greek Australians, now in their 50s and early 60s, also worry about not ageing well.
An organisation committed to helping people over 65 stay independent through healthy ageing is LiveUp, and we Greeks know how to live.
From 9 am to 4 pm this weekend, the Melbourne Convention Centre will host the Melbourne Care and Ageing Well Expo. The Expo will host diverse service providers, health, and other professionals focused on ensuring what Aristotle said, ‘a good life’ for older Australians.
Research by LiveUp shows that older people’s greatest fear is the possibility of losing their independence, with 78 per cent of older Australians finding it more difficult to perform everyday tasks. According to the research, many proud Greeks, now over 70, are in that 78 per cent, and they fear a loss of independence, more than death. Life is there to enjoy, said Hilary O’Connell, LiveUp’s ambassador and an occupational therapist. She noted that lifestyle factors largely determine 75 per cent of the ageing experience.
Older Greeks who maintain a Mediterranean diet, avoid smoking and overdrinking, exercise lightly, and maintain social connections maintain their independence longer.
Kosta (name withheld), now 85, but looks 70, is fit, drives said, “I have some mikro-pramata (minor issues), like my back, but I make sure to do light exercises every day, I eat well, lots of horta, (meadow greens), fasolakia, (green beans), not much meat, no fat, hardly any sugar, and no frying.”
Kosta’s wife, 80, has Alzheimer’s and is incapacitated and non-communicative in an aged care facility.
“I spend three hours a day with her, massaging her, feeding her, showing her love and care, and when I see a smile, it is enough for me,” said Kosta to Neos Kosmos.
Kosta said his keeping physical and mental health is essential.
“I would not be able to care for my love and not be able to help my son at his shop or see my grandkids”.
Kosta also makes sure he goes to the market to spend time with friends, have coffee, and, as he said, “talk about the world, our families, gossip and laugh.”
The Anemones, a community dance group of Greek Australian women, many of them grandmothers, come together every week in a scout hall in Preston.
Nola, a founding member and leader of the group, said, “We get together every week to practice all Greek dances.”
“We go for excursions, for coffee, and before visiting aged care homes and entertaining the residents.”
Katerina, who has attended Anemones for the last 20 years, said the dancing group has changed her life, “I live alone, and I love the dancing, even though my feet hurt.”
Hilary O’Connell said LiveUp is about helping older Australians “make the most of life and to stay independent for as long as possible as we age.”
“The LiveUp website is packed with ideas, tools, and guidance to keep you doing the things you already love or trying something new that you haven’t thought possible.”
“While everyone’s ageing experience is different, there is help at hand to reduce the challenges faced by making simple changes to stay independent longer,” O’Connell said.
For Greek Australians over 70, enjoying family, children and grandchildren or continuing to be involved in community activity is crucial for wellbeing. To enjoy a tsamiko at a festival, keep a flourishing garden, and care for grandchildren, requires physical and mental health.
“It’s never too early or too late to start shaping how we age,” O’Connell said.
LiveUp will have a stand at the Expo and has launched a new site with invaluable information for those over 50 who want to continue enjoying a good life as they age.
For more information on the Melbourne Care and Ageing Well Expo.