At 80 years old most people are winding down, enjoying a well-earned rest. Not so, however, for Northland support worker Rongo Curry who recently celebrated her 80th birthday.
Having joined Access at the sprightly age of 69 in 2003, Rongo remains an inspiration, working day and night shifts 3-4 days every week. ‘I couldn’t have enjoyed turning eighty as much were it not for being able to continue working with Access,’ she says. ‘It keeps me active.’
Recounting her birthday celebration - attended at her Marae by over 100 people including her large and supportive family of seven children, 15 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren - she says her family are glad she still works. They see the benefits it brings to her sense of personal achievement and wellbeing.
‘I always say to people “don’t grow old before you are old”. Age can be as much about how you think as how you feel.’ When asked if she’ll ever give up her work she says, ‘Hopefully not. My body will tell me when to finish.’
Rongo is a credit to people of her age. Articulate, smart, witty, this former teacher of Home Economics for over 40 years is a great believer in always growing. ‘I feel like I’ve maybe reached a stage where I can stop growing physically and mentally.
Having completed my Level 2 and 3 and advanced Level 4 specialising in dementia, I’m keen to explore more spiritual studies so have a ‘day off’ a week to do a pastoral course with the Anglican Church. Being an active learner helps my brain so I don’t tend to get tired.’
When asked what she enjoys most about her work, she says, ‘I think a lot of my clients find I can relate to their stories and we are very compatible. We often converse about radio programmes, gardening or current affairs and it inspires us all to keep more active, both mentally and physically. I can see my clients twice a day and they look forward to having someone listen to them.’
Rongo parts with some surprising words, ‘If you’re not 80, look forward to it! I still have my driving licence, I go to the doctors regularly for check ups and this helps keep me able to do what I do. But at my age I’m free to do exactly what I want to do. And that’s no bad thing.’