Life begins at retirement

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For some people, retirement is the start of the busiest time of their lives. Jemma Walton met three women who are retired and inspired.

For some people, retirement is the start of the busiest time of their lives. Jemma Walton met three women who are retired and inspired.Joan Gallagher: fit as a fiddle

Simon Cowell might not have been impressed with her talents, but for most people 77-year-old Joan Gallagher is a true inspiration.

Because Joan is no ordinary pensioner – she poledances, goes to the gym three times a week, enjoys yoga and pilates and completed last Sunday's London Marathon in a respectable six hours 40 minutes.

But those things are mere trifles compared to her real skills in life, the skills with which she recently attempted to wow Cowell and co with on ITV1's Britain's Got Talent.

Her real talents are for lying on a bed of nails while someone strolls over her back, and smashing a block of concrete on her neighbour Jim's back.

"It hurts in terms of bruises," she explained. "But there is a knack to it. You just concentrate on what you're doing, and they concentrate on what they're doing, and there isn't any real pain afterwards."

Joan, of Cocketts Drive, Wisbech, has always been an energetic woman, running about after five children, but it wasn't until she was in her 40s that she took up her unusual hobbies.

She said: "My husband had been in the Ulster Rifles, and while travelling the world with them he had seen people doing Kung Fu in the fields of Japan, and from then on had an interest in martial arts.

"We married and it wasn't until later that he said that he wanted to give it a go, and so I said OK. He recruited a couple of young girls to help him with his act, which was fine, until they got boyfriends who disapproved, and so they stopped.

"It was then that my husband asked me if I fancied giving it a go, and I didn't want to let the side down and so I agreed, and it carried on from there."

Joan was abandoned by her mother when she was nine-months-old, and fostered by a very strict Victorian-type woman who dominated her life and had very definite expectations of how Jean should behave.

It wasn't until later on in her life that she felt she could strike out and be who she wanted to be.

"When I was younger I got on with older people, and now I'm older I get on with younger people better," she said. "I don't think of myself as old. I like doing things, meeting people and enjoying my life.

"That thing (she points at the TV) doesn't come on until the evening. I've got better things to be doing with my time."

Joan's hubby passed away five years ago, after she'd been caring for him for some time. When he died she gave herself three years and then decided to get out there and make the most of life.

She took up yoga, realised just how fit she was, and has taken part in three London Marathons since. She asked her neighbour Jim if he fancied taking up her old nail bed hobby and he said "why not?", which is how their turn on Britain's Got Talent a couple of weeks ago came about.

"I never want to give up doing things," she said. "I enjoy my life, I like meeting people, and I like raising money for the charity I support, Independent Age. "And I would like to write a book about my life.

"Who knows, people might be interested!"Jean Hunt: 'I have the time to do a lot, and so why not?'

Dashing from meeting to meeting, Jean Hunt is a busy lady in the prime of her life. At 81, she has a CV – and an energy – which would put many 40-year-olds to shame.

Jean is one of the hundreds of pensioners in the city who are refusing to conform to stereotypes of older people settling down with a cup of cocoa and a nice pair of slippers.

The mum of one, who has lived in the city for 79 years, shuns slippers for the chairman's chains, and plays a vital role in Peterborian life.

She is chairwoman of the senior citizens' forum, a trustee of Age Concern Peterborough and vice chairman of the governors of Peterborough College of Adult Education.

And she is also chairman of Peterborough and South Lincs Federation of Townswomen's Guilds, having been the federation's national chairman when she was in her 60s.

While doing this she travelled widely, gained huge amounts of experience and met luminaries from Mrs Thatcher through to Princess Diana. The job gave her the confidence and the know-how to contribute to other, smaller, committees.

"I have always done charity work," she said. "It doesn't occur to me to give up. People say to me that I do a lot, and I do. But I have the time to do a lot, and so why not?"

Jean, of Crown Street, New England, is extremely articulate, intelligent and stylishly dressed, and so it comes as no surprise when she says that she doesn't think of herself as old.

"But when I think about the stage of life I am currently in, there is some sadness there, because I have no one to share things with anymore," she added. "I was married to my husband for 55 years, but he passed away more than five years ago.

"I think that's one of the hardest things about getting older, having to come to terms with people you love dying. It can be the little things – when you have lived with someone for so long you are used to sharing small things with them, things like flowers in bloom in the garden.

"And I don't think I'd do as much as I do if my husband was still alive. When there are two of you you have to compromise, you can't do your own thing all the time, whereas things are very different if you live alone.

"I would say to anyone retiring tomorrow, make sure you get involved with something, meeting other people. It doesn't really matter what it is, or if it's just once a week, it just gives you something to focus on and keeps your mind active."Eve Taylor: Too busy for retirement, Eve is busy promoting her firm

Dynamic, feisty and decorated by her Majesty the Queen – city businesswoman is all these things and more.

Eve is also 76, and has got no plans whatsoever to retire: she's far too busy jetting all over the world, promoting her business.

Eve heads up an aromatherapy, skin and body care company with a 1 million turnover, employs 15 people – including three of her sons – and was given an OBE for services to the aromatherapy business in last year's New Year Honours list.

She was highly commended in The ET's Women of Achievement Awards last year, and traced her lust for life back to watching a TV show about two very different women celebrating their 70th birthdays.

"One was in her own flat in Brighton, had her own company and was celebrating with her family around her.

"The other was in a home with her stockings around her ankles, and was quite a sad person. I decided there and then that I was going to be the woman with the business and the family.

"And you know what, I was. I paid for my family to go to Malta for a week and we had a great time."

Eve was born in Lambeth, London, she left school to work in an office when she was 14, and married when she was 20.

She went on to have five sons, and soon found herself living in a dull and dingy world, struggling to pick itself up from the Second World War.

"I ironed 22 grey shirts one Sunday," she said. "And I thought to myself 'I've got to do something feminine', and so I became the first Avon rep in the south-east.

"At the time, my make-up looked like something out of the Mikado, although I didn't realise it."

Eve went to beauty school in the mornings, looked after her kids during the afternoon and spent her evenings selling skincare products to pay for her studies.

In 1968 she launched the first professional aromatherapy skincare line to contain only pure natural essential oils without cheap synthetic filters. And she hasn't looked back since. Her company, based at Mallard Business Centre, Bretton, is trusted and respected by beauticians around the world.

She shows no signs whatsoever of wanting to slow down.

"I never wanted to be that woman sitting at home with no focus to her life," she said. "I need to have something to do."University of the Third Age

KEEPING the grey matter ticking over is one of the best ways of keeping yourself young in heart and mind.

With this in mind, the U3A (University of the Third Age) is an organisation for older people who want to join in with social, cultural and educational activities.

The Peterborough branch was formed in 1992 and now has more than 1,400 members, with about 70 group activities to choose from.

Classes and groups covering a wide range of subjects and interests are run by volunteers who are keen to share their enthusiasm and skills with you.

And the range of topics really is wide – whether you'd like to learn more about Shakespeare, polish your conversational French or play snooker – the U3A offers something for everyone.

Activities mainly take place mainly during the day. No qualifications are needed, just a wish to get involved. Monthly meetings with speakers and social events are also held on a regular basis.

For more information, visit, or call Bill Collin on 01733 572291, or John Hucklesby on 01733 231894.

Age Concern Centre

IF you'd love to try something new, head down to Age Concern's Centre for Wellbeing.

The centre offers a massive range of courses in all kinds of subjects, including computers, yoga and painting – but don't worry, if you'd just like to meet other people for a chat and a cup of tea, they offer that as well.

The centre is at Age Concern's office at The Lindens, 86 Lincoln Road, and if you'd like to book a place contact Deb or Angela on 01733 564185, or e-mail See also