Retirement is walking, friends and a great diet

Maurie, 78, is pain-free and happy in himself

Retirement looks different these days – it’s about having more freedom to live how you choose, regardless of your health or finances. Here’s how one Kiwi – Maurie – is enjoying his Freetirement.

Arthritis plagued Maurie from the age of 15, and he freely admits his abuse of alcohol was one way to tolerate the pain and get through each day. As a sales rep and manager, Maurie did a huge amount of driving for work, and was finally forced to retire at age 60.

“Arthritis in my back got worse and worse and in the end, I had to give up driving,” Maurie explains. “It was such a relief! I was lucky, too – the company had a generous retirement plan, so I could manage those five years before the government Super came through.”

Battling alcohol at work

Maurie now thinks of himself as a sober alcoholic, and his long battle to quit drinking was not helped by the work culture that existed.

“You didn’t keep corporate clients on the books if they couldn’t have their Christmas drinkies and all the rest. I even tried giving my customers wine, and had water myself, but it didn’t work – I had to drink with them or they wouldn’t have a party time,” says Maurie.

Retiring gave him the opportunity to really quit, and his partner Bryan joined him in support.

“I really just cut down at first, to improve my health,” Maurie admits. “But at a New Year’s Eve party when I thought I was drinking fruit punch, it turned out to be almost neat vodka! That hangover became a classic New Year’s resolution – I haven’t had another drink in 16 years.”

Pain relief through a vegan diet – and walking

Maurie’s partner Bryan is a professional chef, and an avid online health researcher. Together they decided that to reduce Maurie’s arthritis pain even more, they would move to a vegetarian diet. That worked well, and Maurie loves walking as a way to keep his joints mobile. He got fit and gradually lost all of the ‘beer belly’ weight he’d put on when he was working and drinking.

“I love the people I meet out walking,” he says. “When we lived in the Bay of Plenty, I made a lot of friends that way. We still get together for lunches regularly.”

Changing towns was a big step

The warm new house they built in Papamoa six years ago was intended to be their retirement home, but the increasing traffic made it less convenient as time went on. Bryan spent long hours getting to work and back, and Maurie had to drive through traffic to meet his friends and walk.

“We went over the Kaimais one day to visit Bryan’s brother and his wife,” says Maurie. “They’re in a small, quiet town, and I just fell in love with it! I wanted to move right there and then.”

Bryan agreed, but his father Stuart, who at 93 lived alone in Mt Maunganui, was showing signs of dementia. After six months of facing more traffic driving Bryan to work and looking in on his father, Maurie was exhausted. It was no longer a case of simply moving over the hill – they knew they couldn’t leave Stuart behind on his own. That’s when they made a difficult decision.

Co-ownership and care

Pooling their resources, all three now co-own a large, comfortable house in that small Waikato town, and Maurie helps Bryan care for his father. Bryan’s brother lives in walking distance, a perfect arrangement for respite care whenever they need it.

“It’s not easy, but it’s getting better,” says Maurie. “And now I just have to step out the door to walk, sometime twice or three times a day. We still go back to meet friends, and lunch with the walking ladies, and friends have been here to visit, too. So, we’re only missing out on the terrible traffic. I love it.”

An uncertain future 

Although Bryan’s healthy meals keep Maurie out of pain and Stuart in good health for his years, Maurie worries about what the future holds. They had initially chosen a smaller dwelling in a nearby retirement community, but that’s gone on the back burner while they care for Stuart, whose dementia has progressed.

“I just have to keep doing what I do, and hope for the best,” says Maurie. “We’ve already made friends here, and Bryan comes walking with me most days. We even went vegan five months ago, and we both feel better for it. My walking friends say I look so young. I say, ‘Do I have to pay you now?’ We have a laugh, we really do.”

Maurie’s freetirement snapshot:

Maurie, 78, makes the time to feel well and happy

The best part about retirement: “We’re debt-free, with retirement savings. I stopped taking all prescription drugs three years ago – thank goodness. I have time to walk, keep in touch with friends, and go out for coffee and cake!”

The hardest part about retirement: “I worry about the future a bit. Not just our living situation, but about the ongoing side-effects of the meds I was taking – one of them being skin cancer that’s just now turning up.”

His advice for the best freetirement: “Enjoy your life, and care for your partner. Smile, find friends, and be happy in yourself.”