Meet three super successful mature-age Australians whose appetite for life shows no sign of flagging reveal how they keep their passion for doing what they love alive and kicking.
Reg Mombassa, 65
“I can’t conceive of the idea of retiring,” says artist and musician Reg Mombassa. “It’s just a foreign concept. I enjoy what I do and if I stopped I would be very bored and unhappy.”
If anything, Mombassa is spending more time than ever drawing and painting, and writing and performing with his brother and Mental as Anything co-founder Peter Doherty in their band, Dog Trumpet.
Mombassa’s prolific output as a creative in both areas over the last 40 years has embedded him in Australian life as a cultural treasure. His artworks, with their familiar landscapes, rude bits, mutant kangaroos and an Australian Jesus, have become recognisable emblems of the antipodean experience that confront and disturb even as you giggle in recognition of the cultural tropes.
Similarly, Dog Trumpet’s music is well crafted and quirky, with relatable songs examining modern life, tight harmonies and Mombassa’s distinctive plangent guitar.
“There are dark elements in being a human,” he says. ”It’s fantastic and interesting, and often joyous but there’s also a sadness to human life and activity, and my work reflects that.”
Mombassa says his creative fire is fuelled by curiosity about the world – downplaying his anarchic imagination – and that he’s inspired by anything and everything: “Current events, reading history or about religion. A lot of the pleasure I get is in creating,” he says.
“That’s the really fun part. The first idea for a song or rough sketches are often the most expressive and organic part in the process. It’s freer and less constrained, and it’s often the most entertaining.”
What gets him up in the morning? “The desire to start another picture or a song, or read the paper and have breakfast,” he says happily. “Wanting to do something good or something better.
“I’m 65 next birthday”, he muses, “I’m keen just to keep going.
Lynne McGranger, 63
“I blew a bum muscle, but I recovered easily, and Dancing with the Stars was a great thing to do. I like to mix it up,” says McGranger about her turn on the popular dance programme last year when she took a break from portraying Home and Away’s Irene Roberts – a role she has played for 23 years on the long-running Aussie soap.
She’s currently back in her dancing shoes and reappearing with her DWTS partner Carmelo Pizzino in Grease in Perth, before heading the United Kingdom to do a spot of pressure-cooker panto. “For me it’s about going back to my roots: theatre,” she says. “Most of the time I am doing comedy, which I love and cut my theatrical teeth on. I’m very grateful to HaA for allowing me to do this.”
Like DWTS, panto is hard work. “You rehearse for one to two weeks – two weeks is a luxury – then perform for four weeks. I have done 53 performances in 26 days, which was insane.”
She says that being a character actor enables her to, live another existence. “Lynne doesn’t like confrontation, whereas Irene will shirt-front you in a heartbeat. I wish I had that quality,” she says.
Stamina is clearly not an issue for 63-year-old McGranger, who’s happy to cram three jobs into a single year, but it was tested on DWTS. “My feet felt like they had been bound. Every time you got through another week it was more rehearsals. It was my equivalent to jumping out of a plane,” she says.
McGranger was a popular contestant and says that there is audience demand for older women, although the going gets tougher. “It’s just a matter of sticking to your guns and not giving up when you hit 40.”
Barry Palmer, 74
You retire, you die,” says fundraiser and administrator Barry Palmer, with dark humour. He’s prepared to concede that he has sold his real estate business and has moved on since his two-year tenure as the first Australian to serve as international president of the Lions Club, then Chairman of the Lions International Foundation, between 2013 and 2015 – but “just sideways”.
Palmer joined the Lions Club in 1976 and says his motivation was that he felt lucky in his own life. Awarded an Order of Australia earlier this year, the most recent of numerous accolades including the Australian Medal, and the Australian Childhood Cancer Research and the Spastic Centre of New South Wales Award, the tireless septuagenarian says he’s now more involved in ad hoc committees, looking at issues in organisations and how to do things better.
Currently he’s administrator of a US$2 million international genomic project for treating children’s cancer, in partnership with Sydney’s Garvan Institute. “It could change the outcome dramatically for children with cancer. I’m just very proud of the Lions that they’re prepared to take on this challenge that governments won’t take on, because there’s no votes in children,” he says.
He also recently set up another foundation to address the deficit in shelters for women and children in need, since public funding has been reallocated, pointing out that the Lions’ 27,000-strong Australian membership base makes the organisation financially powerful and effective.
“I told my daughter I’m living to 100,” he says of his tireless reserves of energy. “There’s still a lot of dreams to fulfil, and I’ve got projects with the Lions that could change the future.”
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This Information current as at 29/11/2016.
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