A new way to spend your retirement

Brenda Perrick speaks about her decision to spend her retirement volunteering for Meals on Wheels as they turn 60 in the City of Sydney.

Introduction: A new way to spend retirement

Ross Greenwood:  Welcome back to Work, Life, Money right around Australia. Did you know the last time they did a study of it, the number of people who volunteer in Australia is around 36% of the adult population. Now, women are more likely to volunteer than men. It’s around 38% of adult women. When this was last done about five years ago, that was about three and a quarter million women on an annual basis volunteer, 34% of adult men. That’s 2.8 million men.

The other side of this, also in regards to volunteering, is there’s two types, or a few types really. There’s spontaneous volunteering. In other words, if something tragic happens, a bush fire, a flood, whatever, people rally around and volunteer and go and look after other people. Or there’s also employee volunteering. This is where you might have big organizations that as a part of their work, they will actually commit people to volunteer certain activities.

Now, some of this is really interesting, because there are also organizations that very much rely on volunteers giving up enormous amount of their time. Go back, and this is 10 years ago, but it was 713 million hours in a year. It’s phenomenal to see the amount that people are prepared to put in. But it’s not just in the last five or 10 years that Australians have been doing this. This is decades that Australians have been contributing. A classy example of that is the Meals on Wheels service.

Now, if you think about being elderly, maybe not being as competent as you once were in looking after yourself, then Meals on Wheels is a Godsend. I must’ve been out seeing this firsthand myself. I’ve done a bit of volunteering, and actually delivering around the place in country towns in the past as well. But the point also about this is, you know when you’re looking at the condition of, say, an aging person. If they’re not feeding themselves, they’re in big trouble. That’s where Meals on Wheels come in.

Well, I got to tell you, in Sydney, let’s say, for example, and it’s likely around Australia, Meals on Wheels is now celebrating 60 years of delivering food to the elderly. It is a fantastic thing, I’e got to tell you. One of those people who is a volunteer for Sydney’s Meals on Wheels service, is Brenda Perrick. She’s a volunteer. She’s on the line right now. Hello, Brenda. How are you doing?

Interview with Brenda Perrick, Volunteer, Meals on Wheels

Brenda Perrick: I’m good, thank you. How are you?

Ross Greenwood:  Very well. Thank you so much for having a chat. Tell me exactly why you got into volunteering in this way in the first place.

Brenda Perrick:  Well, I retired four years ago, early, and I was just so lost, and within two months I said I have to do something. My daughter actually works for there, so she suggested that I give Meals on Wheels a go, if only for a few months. But I really love it, so I think I’m in it for the long haul.

Ross Greenwood:  Okay. I want a couple of things from you, Brenda. Number one, what did you do as a job that when you left that job, you suddenly found yourself a bit lost? Because this is a fairly common thing. When people leave work, and suddenly go, “Well, I’m retired, what do I do now?” What was it that you did, and do you think that that sense of being lost after losing the work or leaving work, do you think it’s a fairly typical thing?

Brenda Perrick:  I think it is typical. I was what, once upon a time, they used to call housemaids, but now they’re room attendants. I used to work for the Accor Hotel Group at Darling Harbour. I had interaction there with people, and I could talk to people every day, and it was good. I just seem to have lost my way when I retired. I had nothing in my life to fill in my day. It used to be just a long day with nothing, because I don’t go out a lot. I’m not a person that mixes easily with other people. But I just found– Meals on Wheels was just my niche. It was just what I needed to do.

Ross Greenwood:  The other thing is that service, that ability to say, “I am now providing a service, I’m keeping an eye on people in our community, elderly citizens, and also making certain that they have actually got a feed in front of them, which is one of the keys if people increasingly are to remain in their homes as they go through their retirement years, rather than ending up in AgeCare because we know, certainly, for many of those people, that pretty much is the end of the road for them.

Brenda Perrick:  I’ve been on the same run for three years, so I’ve got quite attached to our clients. I know when they’re not well, or we can check if they’re not– If someone isn’t home, which to us is unusual, well then we can get the office then, and they can just do a check on them to check if they are okay. But for a lot of the residents that we deliver to, we’re their only contact in a day. If they have a fall overnight, or they’re not well, well, at least we can get help for them.

Ross Greenwood:  Brenda, they would love a chat, I would’ve thought, given the fact you may be their only contact for the day. Families are busy, families can sometimes live away. As a result, sitting down, even having a chat, that’s a part of the job, I would’ve thought, which is good for you, good for them.

Brenda Perrick:  Yes, I love having a chat, because I’m what they call– Some days I might do two days of what they call a runner, so then I go into the home, and then the other days, I’m a driver. But I love the days when I’m running, because I can go in and I can have a chat to them all. Because I’ve been going to a few of them for a while now, they’re just like visiting the neighbour.

Ross Greenwood:  What’s the food like, out of interest?

Brenda Perrick:  Well, obviously, quite a few of the meals, we get a free meal from the office when we do our runs. At the moment, we’re quite busy. We deliver up to 10 to 11 meals a day, and that’s just one run, whereas the city of Sydney has six runs.

Ross Greenwood:  Can I just say, look, Brenda, it is fantastic to have a chat, only because your lesson in life, I think is a lesson that many other people can also learn, and that is, when you stop work, there is almost a gap that happens for so many people. People do get lost, as you pointed out yourself. But then the second part about that is the need in our community for volunteers. In other words, just because you have stopped one form of work, does not mean that you’ve stopped work completely and utterly. The service you can do in our community is vital, and also very, very important for many needy Australians as well.

Brenda Perrick, as I say, working for the city of Sydney’s Meals on Wheels service, celebrating in this last week its 60th year of operation. And, of course, right around the country, Meals on Wheels services have provided an excellent service over such a long period of time. Brenda, we appreciate your time here on the program today.

Brenda Perrick:  Thank you very much for your call.

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