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Finding purpose over 70

Life doesn’t stop after turning 70. Senior adventures can take you sailing the seas and flying in the skies. They can lead to purpose later in life. 

Some seniors can’t believe the shenanigans their grandchildren get up to. In Mary Bergstrom’s world, it’s the other way around.

“When I tell my grandchildren about my next adventure, they tend to roll their eyes and say ‘What’s she doing now’,” the 74-year-old laughs of an approach to life that has seen her fly planes, skipper her own 30ft sailboat and embrace 4WDing as a grandmother of five.

“Do you remember planking? That craze where people were taking photos of themselves lying facedown in unusual locations? Well, I’d be out in the bush at some remote location and send them a photo of me planking and they’d just shake their heads.

Fun over 70

“I’m always looking for new adventures and I’ll often tackle them on my own. Last year I spent two months driving my 4WD around the Northern Territory, occasionally meeting up with friends or bumping into travellers I had previously met.

“My daughter has a tendency to treat me like a teenager. When her girls were younger, I had to ring her every night to tell her where I was and that I was OK. Nowadays I just do a lot of Facebook posts so she knows where I am.”

Mary’s thirst for life aligns with the ‘grow bold’ ethos of Feros Care, smashing stereotypes about ageing and gender, inspiring others to think differently and explore new challenges and experiences.

Her have-a-go attitude can be traced back to what she describes as a “fantastic childhood” in the Sydney of yesteryear and, in particular, one very special man.

“My father’s teachings have definitely flowed through my life,” Mary explains.

“He would build boats in our back yard and then take us sailing on Sydney Harbour. He always encouraged us to learn how to build and fix things and that has stood me in good stead.

Finding purpose in a meaningful life

“I live on my own in Canberra now and since buying this house in 2001, I’ve always worked on it by myself. I very rarely need to get anyone in to help me. Sometimes I’ll need an electrician or plumber but I do so much of it on my own.”

In terms of a partner, Mary has been “on her own” for the past two decades. Having separated from her first husband in the early 1980s, she found love five years later with a Swede who shared her passion for sailing. They married, set up home in the United States and spent 10 glorious years both on the water and in the air.

“It was a very special time of my life,” Mary says of her adventures with Lars Bergstrom. “We met wonderful people and I’d come back to Australia a lot to see my (adult) children.

“As well as being a guru when it came to sailing, Lars was a pilot so I decided I should get my licence as well. I actually got a Cessna for my 50th birthday, which was pretty neat. We flew a lot together.” Then came the worst day of Mary’s life.

“Lars died in a plane crash,” she says. “He was flying a little single-engine, single-seater plane and we’re not sure what happened.

“I still miss him terribly. I’d have him back today if I could but my life would be so different. If I hadn’t moved back to Australia, I would have missed seeing my grandchildren grow up.

“I had 10 fantastic years with Lars and if that’s all it was meant to be, how lucky was I to have had that time with him.”

Adventuring solo

That sense of positivity flows through many of Mary’s words. Take her response when asked about travelling on her own.

“I know some women feel they need a husband to do things like this but you don’t,” she says.

“They should know that if they try to do something out of the ordinary, they’ll find they’re perfectly capable of doing so. There are actually quite a few of us out there travelling on our own.

“I do go through days when I notice I’m lonely and that’s why I think it’s important to keep socialising. A life on your own doesn’t have to be a lonely life.”

As for any parting words of advice for seniors, Mary chooses her words carefully.

“I don’t really like to tell people how they should live their lives because we all have different priorities,” she says. “I know I’m lucky to be healthy, which makes a difference. My family is also extremely important to me. The big reward for being a mother is that one day you may be blessed with grandchildren.

“The main thing I’m determined to do is continue to live in the here and now — and I suppose that’s something we all can do.” 

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