At 80 years old most people are winding down, enjoying a well earned rest and perhaps settling into a comfortable routine. Not so Northland support worker Rongo Curry who recently celebrated her 80th birthday.
Rongo joined Access as a support worker at the sprightly age of 69 in 2003, where she remains an inspiration, actively working 3-4 days a week split between day and night shifts. ‘Turning eighty, I couldn’t have enjoyed it 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 grown 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 well being.
‘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.’
‘Having completed my Level 2 and 3 (National Certificate in Health, Disability and Aged Support delivered by Access’ in-house training provider Amida Training) I went on to do an advanced Level 4 specialising in Dementia. Now I’m keen to explore more spiritual studies so have a ‘day off’ a week to do a course with the Anglican Church concentrating on pastoral work. I’ve gone full circle in my walk of life and my spiritual studies help me feel grounded and give me personal growth. Being an active learner helps my brain so I don’t tend to get tired. I tend not to discuss my studies with my clients though as I respect their individual spiritual beliefs.’
When asked about what she enjoys most about her work, she says ‘I think a lot of my clients find I can relate to their stories. It’s always easy conversation 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.’
While talking with Rongo her other line rings in the background. It’s her Whangarei Access office asking if she can help with another client tomorrow night. She gladly accepts. ‘I have three regular clients in their 90s who I help with medication, security checks and preparing meals. I also help other teams with nine people ranging in age from late 70s to early 90s, three nights a week.’
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 and nurse 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.’