Marjorie can’t see herself ever retiring

Photograph of Marjorie Shackleford

Image: Bruce Manners

Marjorie Shackleford tried retirement once and didn’t like it. I caught up with her when I was writing Refusing to Retire. She’s one of those people who should keep working.

‘I must have been getting near to 65 and the children kept saying, “When are you going to retire, Mum?” And I thought maybe they have a point. Geoff [her husband—he died in 2011] had already retired so I decided I would, too.’

It lasted three months.

‘I went back to work,’ she says. ‘Retirement wasn’t for me.’

When I met her about a year ago she was 77 years of age and working at a job she had seen advertised and applied for 12 months before. That says something about her employer, and much about Shackleford herself.

A lot of laughter and fun enters the room when the diminutive package that is Marjorie Shackleford does. And energy. At the time you could also add ‘glow’ that had come about because, two days earlier, she had been asked by her friend Leo if she would marry him.

She said yes.

Marjorie’s long road to Australia

Born in Jamaica, Shackleford trained as a nurse in England where she met and married Geoff. In 1970 they immigrated to Australia with their four children, arriving in Adelaide just 10 weeks before the birth of their fifth child.

Ten months after the birth she returned to nursing a couple of nights a week—mainly on weekends so Geoff would be home to care for the children.

Except for the three-month ‘retirement’, she continued working until a few months before Geoff’s death when she cared for him at home. Then she moved to live with her son Colin in Strathalbyn, south of Adelaide. She worked in the garden on his two-and-a-half acre property and took on a part-time job with a florist.

Applying for a job at the age of 76

The job she applied for was at a physiotherapy clinic in Adelaide where they wanted someone to multitask.

‘The interview seemed to go well. I thought my age would go against me and was a bit scared to say how old I was, but then I discovered that the mother of the woman interviewing me was 86 and still running a business.’

She was offered the job the next day.

Shackleford worked three days a week. Her role was to make sure each of the seven rooms in the clinic was tidy and prepared for the next client. She also assisted in keeping the files up to date.

For those over 65 and wanting to work she says, ‘Don’t be fazed by your age. If you feel fit and are healthy and want to work, go for it!’

Then there’s the volunteering

Church plays a central role in Shackleford’s life, and through her church, she volunteered Thursdays and Fridays to help people in the community with food packs. She’d been doing this for 13 years and says she particularly likes meeting the people from different backgrounds and helping them with the various problems they’re facing.

Then she was part of a team that runs a café at the church on Thursday evenings. It’s open to anyone struggling with life issues or is merely lonely. They host up to 90 people a night.

She was so busy that we had to meet at her church to fit in with her schedule.

Think carefully about retirement

Her advice to those contemplating retirement is to think carefully. ‘Just make sure that it’s really what you want to do because when you give up work you face a totally different lifestyle,’ she says.

‘I didn’t think seriously enough when I retired for those three months. If I’d thought about it I would have realised this was not for me. Ask yourself, am I going to enjoy when I’m at home and haven’t got a job to go to?’

Love wins, but doesn’t stop her working

I caught up with Marjorie and Leo recently. Yes, they are married—and happily. They married about 10 months ago. Here’s the big news: Marjorie has quit her job.

Perhaps the news isn’t so big. She quit her job so she could work around the farm. Leo’s a Merino sheep farmer on a 90-acre spread south of Adelaide. He also has chickens and bees. He’s a couple of years older than Marjorie, but he’s up at 6 am and busy all day.

Although she didn’t say, I suspect she’s doing about the same hours as he is.

Mind you, she does have things she would like to do. She’d like to take up painting (of the art kind). She’d also like to write about her life in Jamaica and her experience of coming to Australia.

The art and the books may come, when she finally gives up work, she says. That sounds like a retirement plan. Then she adds, ‘But there’s so much to do on the farm.’

Bruce Manners: the author of Retirement Ready?, Refusing to Retire, and founder of

Category: Refusing To Retire

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