In the park along the Cooks River in Marrickville, elderly Chinese often go for morning walks. They usually walk with their partner, or alone, along the path that runs along the river; a few cycle, or practice Tai Chi. I noticed that they often stopped to look at the river, taking a moment to rest.
In Ashfield, there are many elderly Chinese out shopping, wheeling a small shopping trolley behind them—although, common among many of the elderly in the area. Even with this practical object, many opted for different colours or patterns, indicating a desire for individuality, or an expression of their personal taste. Within the shopping mall, and also within the Civic Centre and library, there were many elderly Chinese seated. In the latter two, they were reading a book or a Chinese-language newspaper; in the mall they had stopped to rest or to talk to a friend.
The availability of seating seems to be important; people were stopping to have a break. The consideration of the comfort and placement of these seating areas is something that could be better considered.
I interviewed Frances*, who is nearing 65, about her sense of being, belonging, and becoming. ‘I wish my body would keep up’ she tells me. Although Frances doesn’t have any immediate goals, she wants to travel locally and abroad as much as possible. There’s also the house to fix up. And she goes diving, frequently. She began diving six years ago, a hobby she shares with her husband and children. I asked how long she sees herself diving—she replied ‘Can I say until I die?’ and jokingly added, ‘Ideally at the same time’. She enjoys diving because the fish are interesting, but it also creates opportunities to travel to different places, and it keeps them active and social.
At the moment they live in a two-storey house; Frances tells me they will have to eventually move to a single-storey as it’s ‘more practical not to create the challenges of climbing up and down the stairs’. Maintaining their current lifestyle near the beach would be ideal, however, more importantly, having access to good medical care. She had seen through her mother-in-law and her close friend the difficulties of being located far from health practitioners that were either better equipped to their condition, or those you had built a great relationship with.
From this small observation, I found that having a personal and local environment to connect to is important. The home can give security and make life easier if it’s designed appropriately, and the local environments can provide a place for social activities, exercise, and even moments of rest.
*name has been changed